7 Senior Bowl prospects the Lions should watch on defense

Marvin Wilson, Florida State Seminoles (Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images)
Marvin Wilson, Florida State Seminoles (Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images) /
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Ifeatu Melifonwu,  Syracuse Orange
Ifeatu Melifonwu,  Syracuse Orange (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images) /

Ifeatu Melifonwu, CB – Syracuse

Four years ago, Obi Melifonwu tore up the draft season.

The UConn safety had a huge week at the Senior Bowl and then followed that up by blowing the doors off the Combine checking in at 6-foot-4, 224 pounds, having a 44-inch vertical, and running a 4.4. For those familiar with Kent Lee Platte’s excellent Relative Athletic Score, he scored a 9.89 out of 10.

Obi was a second-round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft but hasn’t yet caught on in the league. His younger brother Ifeatu now looks to make a name for himself playing the position many thought Obi might be better off at – cornerback.

Ifeatu Melifonwu stands at 6-foot-3 and 213 pounds so is about as physically imposing as a cornerback gets. You match this with his rare length and incredible athleticism and he has all the tools to succeed.

The challenge with taller corners is their fluidity and transitions, and often corners of his size strictly press man options. Melifonwu is the opposite of this having only had limited press experience and has predominantly been lined up in off-coverage.

But Melifonwu has exceptional hips for a man of his size and length. He also is efficient and light with his feet, which is often a challenge for players with a longer stride pattern needing to make explosive breaks on the football.

Melifonwu has shown improvement in his physicality in the run game, but I wouldn’t say he plays as strong as his listed size. It will be interesting to see how he mixes it up this week with other top prospects hoping to boost their stock.

The other two areas I’m most keen on studying are his short-area quickness and how he handles press in one-on-ones. If he performs well here and shows he is coachable and can improve as the week progresses, then the sky is the limit for his draft stock.

For the Lions, I see a toolkit that can be used in multiple ways. Whilst more advanced in zone, he has the skills to play better man coverage than he has shown so far. And for a defense that may spend the majority of their time in nickel and even dime, he would have some positional flexibility to play as a fifth or sixth defensive back.