It is with great pleasure that the DraftRite team brings you another edition of Academic Standout Sunday. Every Sunday, new DraftRite writer Mike O’Brien brings you a prospect breakdown for players who not only excel on the field but also in the classroom.
“Why?” one might ask. “Who cares about grades?”
To put it simply, players who excel in their academic endeavors deserve to be commended for being outstanding players, students, and people. Some of the NFL’s most dominant football players are well read and versed off the field. The star examples of this would be Andrew Luck, Richard Sherman, and Ryan Fitzpatrick who all found success in the league that can partially be attributed to their mental prowess.
This week we dive into Syracuse defensive back Ifeatu Melifonwu, who not only earned a degree in Economics, but also was voted to the 2019 All-ACC Academic Team, made the ACC Honor Roll selection three times, and was a five-time member of the SU Athletic Director’s Honor Roll. Ifeatu was raised in the Worcester, Massachusetts area and is the brother of second round draft pick Obi Melifonwu who dominated the combine in 2017 before being drafted by, what was then, the Oakland Raiders.
NEVER BACKPEDAL IN THE ENDZONE.— Zach (All-22 Addict) Gartin (@All22_Addict) February 11, 2021
Ifeatu Melifonwu does a good job dictating route depth and messing with the timing of the route. pic.twitter.com/UQU657XgMt
WHAT Melifonwu BRINGS TO THE TABLE:
Who doesn’t love a corner who can tackle? Melifonwu shows that he is willing to put his body on the line to make a play. Sometimes we read about defensive backs making “business decisions” by not tackling strong runners. Melifonwu does the opposite, being physical is his business. The same premise is true in pass defense where he forces quite a few pass breakups just from putting a body on his opponent with great timing.
Rarely do you find a corner who can maintain fluidity throughout the rep like Melifonwu does. He is unfazed by downfield movement and double moves. One of his best traits is his ability to recover and make plays on the ball during extended plays. The outstanding athleticism is matched with good pace and flow. He’s a very natural mover and has a good head on his shoulders for the corner position.
3. Natural Ability
I think his brother made it clear and obvious that these guys are a different breed of athlete. Ifeatu played basketball, lacrosse, and also ran track in high school. It is not surprising to see this guy have great long speed and overall athleticism. He measured in with over 32″ arms and it shows up on film often. There is one play against North Carolina in 2020 that stands out to me, where he reaches around Dyami Brown and swats the ball away from the receivers hands. Overall, Melifonwu checks all the physical boxes in order to be a top end corner prospect.
Look at Ifeatu Melifonwu (Syracuse CB bottom of your screen) change direction and close out for the PBU. 🔥 pic.twitter.com/tEPq6cHmbW— Mike O’Brien (@MOBrienNFL) February 10, 2021
What Needs To Improve:
As one of my favorite prospects in this class, it is hard for me to exercise this muscle of saying what I don’t like about his game. He needs some work playing closer to the line of scrimmage and handling receivers who win early in the route. He does possess the physical ability to overcome these challenges and I think that factor contributes to what makes him so appealing as a prospect.
I think Ifeatu Melifonwu is a great cornerback prospect that fits in a zone scheme. With NFL bloodlines, smarts, and overall natural ability alone I think he is easily a day two prospect with enough upside to pull the trigger in round one. As Michael Jordan once said, “The ceiling is the roof”. I’d be happy to walk away from the 2021 NFL Draft knowing Melifonwu is on a flight to join my squad. Another outstanding, player, person, and student.
You can find Mike O’Brien @MOBrienNFL on Twitter.