With the 2021 NFL Draft fast approaching, we examine some of the prospects who could be of interest to the New England Patriots.
In this scouting report, we take a closer look at Ifeatu Melifonwu, a cornerback from Syracuse University.
Height: 6024 (1.88m)
Weight: 205lbs (93kg)
40-Yard-Dash: 4.48 seconds
Vertical Jump: 41.5in (1.05m)
Relative Athletic Score (RAS): 9.7/10
Man Coverage: 8/10 - Showed good ability in man coverage, yet didn't play a whole ton of it. His speed and size combination, followed with his physicality and fluid hips, indicates that he could play man more consistently and make plays.
Zone Coverage: 9/10 - What he mostly played at Syracuse and played well. A player who is great at reading and reacting, and hard to beat over the top.
Press Coverage: 8/10 - Building off man coverage, his speed, quickness, long, athletic frame will give him opportunities at the next level to cover some of the more tall, athletic receivers who dominate the league. With his physicality and his aggressive ball skills toward the catch point, he has all the basic traits to succeed here. Just a little more refinement should do the trick.
Off Coverage: 8/10 - Defensive scheme involved him giving lots of opposing players a big cushion, preventing anything over the top. Very experienced in off coverage and with his ability to read, anticipate and use his explosiveness to his advantage, he is able to make some big plays and breakups in such coverage.
Athleticism: 10/10 - Melifonwu's athleticism for someone his size is eye-popping. It's extremely rare for a tall cornerback to have the long speed, explosiveness, and leaping ability he has.
Draft Grade: Top 50 (Second round)
Fit with the Patriots:
Melifonwu may be more of a cover three-type corner, and therefore may have some better suitors for him with better defensive schemes, in terms of fit. There is still plenty of reason to think that with some training and development that Melifonwu could become a more predominant press-man coverage-type player.
He has a lot of what it takes to make it as a press-man cornerback in the New England Patriots' system. That being said, he's simply more comfortable in zone from his playing experience, and having him play more man than zone could potentially limit his upside, which is a risk that the Patriots should be aware of come draft day.
However, if New England retains both Stephon Gilmore and J.C. Jackson for the 2021 season, the load on Melifonwu likely would be very little in his rookie season. Melifonwu's rookie season likely would end up looking awfully similar to Joejuan Williams' 2019 rookie year when Williams was frequently inactive as he spent time learning his technique and the intricate details of his position. If Melifonwu were to do the same, he could make the transition to a more predominant man coverage defense, and potentially excel.
While his 2021 contributions likely would be very limited, his 2022 season would have a lot of promise. All that coming just in time as both Jackson and Gilmore are set to hit the open market next offseason, along with safety Adrian Phillips. That adds even more intrigue as Melifonwu also has the skill set to play safety, meaning that Melifonwu would have the potential to fill a void at three different spots on the defense. If Bill Belichick can figure out a way to fill three different potential roles in the secondary by taking a long, physical, athletic player who can tackle, all for a second-, third-round pick, best believe he'll consider taking advantage.