The Detroit Lions secondary struggled mightily last season. Their performance against Tom Brady and the Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers immediately comes to mind. Despite already being filled with a bunch of young potential, the Lions added another piece with their compensatory pick in the third round when they picked Syracuse cornerback Ifeatu Melifonwu.
That name might sound familiar. His brother, Obi Melifonwu, was on a lot of Lions fans’ wish list in the 2017 NFL Draft, but he went to the Oakland Raiders in second round. Ifeatu, or “Iffy,” for short, brings a lot of the same style of play his brother brought to the New England Patriots when they won the Super Bowl. There’s some thought he might be able to play safety like his brother does as well.
We wanted to see if anyone else felt that way too, so we reached out to our pal Kevin M. Wall of Nunes Magician to get the scoop on what he thinks the young Melifonwu can do in the NFL. Here’s what he had to say:
1. What are your thoughts on Melifonwu’s time at Syracuse?
“He was a bit of an under-the-radar recruit that Michigan tried to grab late but Syracuse held on and watched him blossom into a very good corner. He came on during the Orange’s strong 2018 season and the last two years has been a bright spot on teams that haven’t been successful.”
2. What are his strengths?
“A lockdown man-up defender with plenty of intangibles, Iffy has size for a corner at 6-foot-2 and 205 pounds. His hips play well when switching directions in-coverage. He also attacks under routes above average and can tackle in the open field. He also showed well in the Senior Bowl and tested out extremely well at Syracuse’s pro day with a 4.48 40-yard dash, a 41.5-inch vertical jump and a 11-foot-2 broad jump.”
3. What are his weaknesses?
“When not in press coverage and able to take advantage of his ability in tight one on one, he can allow receivers to get a bit of a cushion on him. He will need to increase his ability to change direction in space when he’s not matching up a man one-on-one.”
4. Can Melifonwu play safety?
“Not sure if that’s a switch he’d be able to make as the Orange tried to utilize him in man coverage and he wasn’t as successful when they played zone. If he’s not used on the outside he could certainly be able to work as a slot corner as he uses his size well on those short routes.”
5. Can Melifonwu make an immediate impact on the NFL?
“We think he has the cover skills to be able to help Detroit’s defense right away. Syracuse’s opponents largely avoided him the last two seasons so don’t focus on low interception totals. He should be able to step in and play in passing situations at the very least as well as contribute on special teams.”