NFL Draft Scouting Report: Obi Melifonwu

Safety #20
RS Senior 6’4″ 224

  • Four-Year Starter
  • First Team All-AAC
  • Team Leading 128 tackles
  • Elite Athleticism
  • Elite Size/Weight for his position
  • Former Cornerback
  • Solid Tackler, though he can tackle high and struggle with leverage
  • Attacks the ball while in the air
  • Takes poor angles to the ball
  • Lacks “read and react” instinct

Obi Melifonwu is an athletic safety whose combine performance rocketed him up many draft boards, despite already having four years of production for the Huskies. While watching Melifonwu, his speed and athleticism immediately jumps out at you. When he sees and recognizes a play, he gets to the ball and makes a play. Below you see just how quickly he can close on a wide receiver. I love how he attacks the ball carrier and drives his feet through the end of the play.

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Melifonwu does a really good job on these shorter slants or screen plays, mostly when the offense works underneath. When watching him he does his best work attacking the line of scrimmage when the ball is in front of him. Below is another example showing how Melifonwu attacks the ball carrier and makes a sure tackle.

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With all this being said, Melifonwu has solid feet and ball skills for a defensive back of his size. Its evident that Melifonwu has retained many of the skills he developed as a corner, which only adds to his versatility and value as a defensive back. At the Senior Bowl, he showed his clean hips in and out of breaks. This below clip is something very few safeties can do. Notice how Melifonwu recognizes the route, drives on the ball and breaks up the pass.

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As you notice, he was called for a penalty on this particular occasion even though I felt it was a great play and highlighted his capability in pass coverage. Below is another angle showing the drive to the ball and his hand-eye coordination to break up the pass.

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Melifonwu oozes with plenty of upside though his game is still very raw. Despite his elite athletic tools, he must improve his path to the ball, especially to be that “in the box” type of safety most project him to be.

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This clip is one such example of how a poor angle to the football can negate all the natural tools Melifonwu possesses. These plays don’t occur more often then not, but they do occur and should raise some concerns for scouts and general managers. In addition to poor angles, he struggles at times to locate the ball in the air while running with a receiver as the below clip shows.

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Melifonwu’s athletic ability and untapped potential jumps out on film. However, as a four-year starter and still being considered “raw” does raise some concerns despite all his upside. If Melifonwu can be coached up and land in a system that allows him to put his strength to use, he could be a future star in the NFL.

Games Watched: 2015 USF, 2016 USF, 2016 Cincinnati, 2016 Virginia.

Round Value: 2nd

Player Comparison: Kam Chancellor

Like Chancellor, Obi is an “oversized” safety who combines raw athleticism along with collegiate experience. Both of these players do their best work “in the box” but also show they can match up at times with receivers and Tight Ends. Like Kam, if Obi finds a spot in the NFL that allows him to attack the line of scrimmage and pick match ups on wide receivers and tight ends, he could blossom into a very effective NFL caliber safety.  

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