The brother of former Connecticut safety and a second-round pick by the then Oakland Raiders, Obi Melifonwu, Ifeatu did not follow his brother to UConn but instead opted to play for the University of Syracuse.

The three-star recruit redshirted as a freshman before playing in nine games in 2018. Melifonwu started eight games as a redshirt sophomore as well as all ten in 2020 before declaring for the NFL Draft.

During his time for the Orange, Melifonwu recorded 89 total tackles and three interceptions, along with an impressive 21 pass deflections. He is widely regarded as a strong character from a good family that includes four siblings.

Melifonwu accepted his invite to the 2021 Reese’s Senior Bowl and hopes to impress on and off the field in Mobile.

View the Senior Bowl invites here: www.si.com/nfl/draft/nfldraftevents/seniorbowlinvites

The Evaluation

Possessing great size and length standing almost 6-3 and 207 pounds, Melifonwu blows many size thresholds for NFL teams out of the water. Even with those measurables, he is very athletic with quick feet and oily hips. Melifonwu can mirror and match releases in press man, his hips flip quickly when he has to carry receivers vertically.

Keeping his hand in the hip pocket of the opponent helps him stay attached throughout downfield routes. Despite occasional false steps, Melifonwu maintains his balance aiding his ability to recover rapidly.

The Massachusetts native uses his impressive build by playing receivers physically in coverage. That includes redirecting outside vertical routes to the sideline, giving quarterback and receiver a smaller window to connect. Melifonwu will not be boxed out at the top of his routes and has no issue returning physicality to big X receivers.

When receivers try to cross his face he gets physical and positions himself in their way to make them work around him which often throws off the timing of the route. The most impressive part of Melifonwu’s game is his ball skills. Showing good timing, he can make plays from behind receivers as he uses his length to get a hand in and knocking passes incomplete.

When the ball is in the air, he gets his head around when he is in good positioning or plays the hands of the receiver well when he is not. His intelligence is evident as he turns around after redirecting his opponent into the corner of the endzone, daring the passer to throw the ball right to him. Amid his aggressiveness, at the catch point, Melifonwu is careful to not get called for pass interference. His competitive nature will impress teams as he is aggressive coming downhill on passes to the flat, limiting run after the catch.

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When offenses throw screens to his side, Melifonwu sheds blocks quickly and rallies to the tackle. He could improve his reliability by wrapping up more consistently as he is often throwing his shoulder around. His effort stands out as he has touchdown-saving tackles on tape, competing until the whistle blows. At Syracuse, Melifonwu is often used in off coverage which is not the best way to utilize his skill set. While he can break on routes in front of him, his close is better than his click.

He is guilty of getting lazy in off man, almost looking like he is covering a deep third, which leads to easy completions underneath. However, the transitions out of his backpedal are smooth especially when he has to turn and run.

Melifonwu projects as a starting cornerback in a press heavy single high scheme. He possesses the length and ball skills to handle deep thirds in zone coverage. His physicality and size make him an ideal matchup against bigger X receivers from a defensive standpoint.

In press, he will be able to match and mirror as well as redirect routes. Taking size into consideration, athletes like him are rare. Do not expect Ifeatu Melifonwu to have to wait for long until he hears his name called in April. He is one of the best cornerbacks in the draft.

The Tape

In cover four against Clemson, Melifonwu is not fooled by the double move and almost has the interception on the sideline:

At the bottom of the screen, Melifonwu sticks with the shallow route and tips the pass resulting in a Syracuse interception:

In man coverage, he sticks with the in-breaking route and breaks up the pass:

He can do the same from off coverage. Here he is at the top of the screen:

Melifonwu’s competitiveness shows up when he triggers on passes to the flat, limiting run after catch:

On the swing screen to the running back, he tosses the blocker and tackles the ball carrier: