Dan Campbell 'Shocked' Ifeatu Melifonwu Was Available in Third Round

Detroit Lions head coach Dan Campbell was "shocked" that Syracuse cornerback Ifeatu Melifonwu was still available in the third round of the 2021 NFL Draft.
Author:
Updated:
Original:

Ifeatu Melifonwu could end up being the steal of the Lions' 2021 draft class. 

The 6-foot-3, 205-pound defensive back was projected by many draft pundits to go in the second round, and fell to Detroit at No. 101 overall, the 38th pick in the third round. 

The Syracuse product finished with 88 total tackles and 26 passes defensed, including three interceptions, in 29 career college games. 

Additionally, in his third and final season with the Orange in 2020, Melifonwu recorded 55 total tackles, three tackles for loss, one sack, an interception and nine pass breakups in 11 games.   

Lions head coach Dan Campbell was ecstatic and "shocked" to be able to get the big-bodied corner where the organization did in the final round of Day 2 of the draft. 

“He’s just sticking out like a sore thumb, and you can’t avoid him,” Campbell said, during a recent SiriusXM Radio interview, about Melifonwu. “To know what kind of athlete and football player he is -- and by the way, this kid has a background now, too. Everything about him, he does extra work. He knows how to work, he’s smart, he’s competitive, he’s got some dog in him and he loves football. Then, you put that with the athletic ability, knowing this is a 41-inch vert guy and 11(-foot) broad, on top of that, he can run at over 200 pounds. Man, he’s got some speed and length and ball skills. It was a no-brainer for us. We were thrilled to get him. We were actually shocked that we were able to get him where we got him.” 

syracuse5

The physical Melifonwu possesses the ability to effectively cover receivers both on crossing patterns and downfield. 

Detroit is hoping that Melifonwu's skill set will allow him to eventually become a perfect complement to fellow corner Jeff Okudah, the Lions' 2020 first-round pick (No. 3 overall). 

For now, though, Melifonwu is expected to play behind both Okudah and third-year cornerback Amani Oruwariye, while competing for playing time with veteran defensive backs Quinton Dunbar and Corn Elder. 

Detroit general manager Brad Holmes, in his post-NFL Draft press conference, raved about Melifonwu being a "big, long corner." 

"Scouting his brother (Obi) years ago, he’s got the same physical specimen traits for a big, long corner, that, from the outside, looks like he’s just a press corner. But, he’s actually not," Holmes said. "How Iffy grew on me in the process is his ability to actually play in off coverage and actually be able to maneuver, show quickness in the short area, in zone and off coverage, which usually guys that long and that big aren’t able to do.” 

Melifonwu believes his size and athleticism will be assets for him in the NFL. 

"I feel like my size and athleticism, it helps a lot, just because I feel like I might be able to make up for things other corners can’t,” Melifonwu told reporters after being drafted. “Honestly, it’s always just a plus, having technique and having athletic ability go along with it. So, I think that definitely helps me in a lot of areas.” 

If Melifonwu makes the most of his physicality and high-end athleticism at the next level, he could very well end up being the best pick -- not named Penei Sewell -- of Detroit's draft haul this year. 

And, at the very least, Campbell & Co. are excited to have him on their team.