[#FilmWithFive] Prospect Preview: SS Obi Melifonwu

I want all the defensive backs. The motto has not changed.

In a class that’s completely loaded with talent at both corner and safety, Reggie needs to focus on the future of the group and start investing. I hope.

Today, we’re looking at a safety from the University of Connecticut.

Yes, Connecticut.

I’ve heard he’s the next Kam Chancellor.

Perhaps George Iloka?

My favorite name being thrown around is Taylor Mays. Taylor. Mays.

Obi Melifonwu is not Kam Chancellor, but I certainly understand the comparisons. For the record, he’s definitely not Taylor Mays, either.

There’s just not too many rocked-up, 6’4″ 220-plus safety’s strolling around the league. Not only does Obi look the part, he’s got all the numbers to match:

The vertical and broad, to go with the 40 for a dude his size, is just silly. He made himself some serious coin in Indianapolis, a large reason why we’re talking about him today. Connecticut isn’t necessarily known for putting players into the league on a consistent basis, but Melifonwu’s ceiling is so obvious, it’s hard to ignore based on those numbers alone.

We can sit here and run back Combine clips all day, honestly.

Let’s see how the tape lines up, what type of player you’re investing in, and more importantly, in what round.

Playing the Run

This isn’t necessarily glamorous stuff, but it’s where Obi excels and why he’s cashing checks at the next level. There was buzz early on about Obi’s possible transition to corner in the League. Post-Combine, that buzz has only grown louder, for some reasons I still can’t quite grasp. Since Seattle deployed players like Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner, front offices are still chasing after those “oversized” corners, I guess. That’s the only justification that I can reach for here.

Anyway, Melifonwu’s clearly athletic enough, but throwing him outside and having him run with wide receivers sounds like a good way to completely limit what he does best. For me, if I’m drafting a player with Obi’s build and skill set, I want him in the box, and operating around the line of scrimmage. He’s easily got the best run fits of any safety in this class (which is saying a lot, as Budda Baker also declared).

Unblocked here, this is a gimme.

Good little jump; subtle, but he manages to build so much speed and force in such a short amount of time. Squares up and kills the play.

More vs. Houston. Like his eyes as he identifies the alley – we see this a lot with Obi, as we touched on above. His fits are excellent.

Filling in the alley. Strong legs, and he’s able to stand-up the runner upon contact. Specimen.

The Run Fit Phenom. I’m telling y’all, it’s easy for Obi.

This is notable. You can see some patience to his approach here as he waits for the back to make his cut(s). Often times, as we’ll dicuss later, we see Obi over-running plays. He’s definitely capable of playing under control, it’s just something I’d like to see more of.

Little bit of everything in this one. Reaction/eyes, the quick steps, and delivers a pop at the end. Obi working downhill is the best Obi.

Closing Speed

This completes the package, or at least ties in the bullet points above. Given Obi’s athletic prowess, we routinely see him taking long, efficient strides as he moves towards the ball. Obi covers a lot of ground very quickly (which is important to note as we move forward). Upon arrival, we see that sure-tackler that was previewed before. He’s able to operate in the open field for the most part and when he does hit you, he’s bringing the wood. That’s what 6’4″ 220 does for you.

He’ll hit you.

More of the same: this is that “elite range” that Malik “Ed Reed” Hooker possesses, I think.

You look at his size and weight and keep shaking your head. Obi can clearly move.

Here’s some examples of that aforementioned work in the open field:

He’s bigger than most folks on the field, like seeing him work off the block here.

Good angle and approach (playing under control) with this rep.


I’m not confident deploying Melifonwu deep, at least not for extended periods of times. There’s some inconsistency in his play when he’s asked to drop and cover the deeper half. I’m not sure if it’s an instinctual thing, or he’s just not comfortable? From what I’ve seen, Obi has the tendency to “ponder”. At that point, even with his long strides, he’s a step or two too late. You can only hope to be the better athlete so many times.

Either way, now that I’ve broken him down, I can build him back up. The shortcomings in coverage are not to say he can’t be serviceable at times, or even flash here and there. For a team like Oakland, relying on 33-year old Reggie Nelson who couldn’t run five or six years ago let alone today, you’re probably okay taking your chances with a 4.4 player like Obi at the end of the day.

Again, I’m not considering the question marks in coverage a glaring weakness, but it’s certainly an area he can improve on. Another reason why I simply don’t under the move to cornerback. Anyway, I digress. Let’s watch Obi run with some wide receivers and break up some passes:

Playing center field vs. South Florida.

Good press, and almost comes away with the ball at the end.

Good step here and again, that 4.4 speed will probably have him hanging with most wideouts.

Areas of Improvement?

Overrunning — For as good of a tackler as Obi is, we see these plays often. He plays too quick for his own good at times. It’s the blessing and the curse. We’ve seen a few clips above where Obi was playing very under control. If we’re talking top 20 or so, we’ll need to see that more and more consistently.

Stiffness — I circled a couple of instances where his hips tightened up, or he gets lost underneath his own feet. What I like best about Melifonwu, as I had noted a few times, is how well he plays the run and manages the cut-back lanes. Want to see him maintain those hips.

Soft — I don’t know, I can see this one both ways I guess. You can draw your own conclusions based on the #tape. I do like to bring this up because the fact that this discussion even needs to happen is why those Kam comps (outside of size) may not be warranted (and that’s ok, too).

Looking at the big picture, it’s hard to have a Combine performance like the one Obi Melifonwu put together – to go along with the solid tape/grades, in addition to the high-character kid with all the intangibles – and not be considered a first round player. That’s where he’ll be mocked, and that’s where he’ll go (perhaps as high as the top 20). If he manages to find himself on the board when the clock starts ticking for the 24th overall selection, the Raiders will have a decision to make. Does Reggie give Jack and Ken their own “version” of Kam Chancellor?

While I greatly prefer his value heading into the second round, I think it’s also fair to admit that Obi probably doesn’t come close to the 56th pick. He fills a need – allows Joseph to drop back and relieve Nelson of his duties – and if he’s your guy, you have to grab him.

Final grade: early Day 2 selection, but I’m not arguing with anyone in my mentions if he’s called at 24.

Catch me on Twitter: @StillRyanFive