Ifeatu Melifonwu - Cornerback, Syracuse
By the numbers:
6'2", 212 pounds per Senior Bowl measurements.
2020: 54 tackles (3.0 for loss), six passes broken up, one interception and a sack in 10 games played.
Ifeatu Melifonwu (Eh-FAH-too Mel-eh-FON-wu) is a lengthy corner who uses his size to defend up close and personal in man coverage. He doesn't allow receivers much space to operate and suffocates them with his physicality. His ball skills aren't great but due to his closing speed and length, he manages to remain disruptive at the catch point. With improved timing and confidence, he has the potential to come away with more interceptions.
While some are worried that Melifonwu will have to follow a path similar to his brother Obi (who plays safety for the San Francisco 49ers), that shouldn't be necessary. He's a big corner but has an impressive athletic profile, moves well and flips his hips quickly. He's one of the best mirror-coverage cornerbacks in this year's draft, offering a slim chance that he becomes a true sticky and blanket-style player.
Melifonwu is also a more-than-willing tackler and offers solid run support. He takes good routes to the ballcarrier and wraps them up with sound technique and doesn't shy away from contact.
A lot of the downsides that come with Melifonwu's game may simply improve with experience. His football IQ, albeit solid, is a work-in-progress. His anticipation and identification of routes is inconsistent, leading to the occasional missed read in zone coverage. Melifonwu can get caught looking at the opposing quarterback instead of his assignment from time to time, which leaves him susceptible to losing track of things.
Melifonwu has terrific size, but he displays a bit too much confidence in it. His speed is more than adequate but not elite, so leaving a bit more space between himself and his matchup at the next level would make a huge difference. Again, these issues are minor and very well could be coached out of him within a couple of years.
How Melifonwu fits with the Chiefs:
With Bashaud Breeland set to hit free agency and Charvarius Ward's future with the team being murky, cornerback is a minor area of need for the Chiefs. There are certainly more pressing needs at hand, but Melifonwu's potential is immense. Steve Spagnuolo's defense suits his physical brand of football, and not being thrust into the fire immediately may do him some good. The talent and scheme fit are obvious.
Melifonwu's length, athleticism and physical nature cannot be taught. He's an intriguing prospect with room to grow, which makes him a candidate to skyrocket up draft boards with good athletic testing. The Chiefs probably need to use their early draft capital on other positions but if they choose to go the cornerback route, Melifonwu makes good sense. He grades out firmly as a second-round pick with a very high ceiling.