Why the Slide?: Obi Melifonwu

By Charlie Campbell, @draftcampbell

Three years ago, we started a series of articles on why certain prospects went undrafted. In that series, I reach out to sources with NFL teams to find out why their organizations passed on drafting a given player, and/or, what were the reasons for other teams to pass on that prospect. We got a lot of positive reader feedback about the series, so we decided to expand in the genre to investigate why some prospects slid in the draft. A year later, we started the Why Slide? series, and this year, it is back. Feel free to email me requests for “Why the Slide?” and “Why Undrafted?” at [email protected]. I can’t promise to get to all of them, but I will do my best and definitely respond.

One of the fastest rising prospects throughout the lead up to the 2017 NFL Draft was Connecticut safety Obi Melifonwu. After a quality senior year, he was one of the stars of the Senior Bowl and NFL Scouting Combine. Melifonwu also was one of the busiest prospects in terms of pre-draft visits with teams around the NFL. The size/speed freaky athlete was even getting consideration as a cornerback by some teams. The media consensus had Melifonwu being selected in the back half of the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft, but he slipped into the second round.

Sources believe Melifonwu was worthy of going in the back half of the first round, but he was one of the players who happened to slip lower than expected just because the draft fell that way. Some teams felt that Melifonwu still needed some development with his instincts, but they love the versatility that he has to fix a variety of mismatch problems.

The Oakland Raiders ended Melifonwu’s fall in the second round, and he was an excellent value pick for the Raiders in Round 2. Oakland is a great landing spot for Melifonwu as he has a lot of talent around him. The Raiders have other first-round picks in the secondary with cornerback Gareon Conley and safety Karl Joseph. Both are good coverage players who could allow Melifonwu to be used in a variety of ways. With Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin applying pressure off the edge, Melifonwu could be in position to clean a lot of plays up. Melifonwu will help Oakland defend the receiving tight ends of the Chargers and also will be a great asset in defending Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce. The Raiders’ run defense was vulnerable last year, and Melifonwu (6-4, 220) has the size to be the eighth man in the box to help shut down the ground game. He is going to one of the most talented young teams in the NFL and could be one of Oakland’s core building blocks on defense.

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