Lions met with Ifeatu Melifonwu clone at Syracuse Pro Day

As the Lions look to add secondary help via the draft, they met with one of the bigger corners in this year's class.
Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Wherever his career goes after a breakout stretch to end last season, Ifeatu Melifonwu will always be player the Detroit Lions took with the first draft pick they acquired in the Matthew Stafford trade. Heading into this year's draft, the Lions have met with another defensive back coming out of Syracuse.

According to Justin Melo of The Draft Network, Syracuse cornerback Isaiah Johnson said the Lions were one of the teams he met with at his Pro Day.

Johnson is a Detroit native who started his college career at Dartmouth before transferring to Syracuse for his final two seasons. He had 115 tackles with nine pass breakups and two interceptions over that span, proving he belonged at the Power 5 level.

Last season, Johnson (6-foot-3, 205 pounds) posted a 78.1 coverage grade and an 83.3 tackling grade from Pro Football Focus. By all accounts he will be a safety in the NFL, with a lack of long speed on tape proven out by a 4.64 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine. His other athletic testing numbers at the combine were pretty good though; 38.5-inch vertical, 10-foot-9-inch vertical, even his 1.55-second 10-yard split in the 40 wasn't bad.

2024 NFL Draft: How would Isaiah Johnson fit with the Lions?

As we know, Melifonwu made the switch from cornerback to safety before his second NFL season. But it's also fair to say his play speed was better than Johnson's, and the Lions had a need at safety that helped drive the switch, Once healthy for a noticeable stretch last year, Melifonwu took off.

The Lions are lacking depth at safety right now, and it's sure to be addressed over what's left of free agency or the draft (if not both, if only to add depth pieces). In his interview with Melo, Johnson acknowledged the idea he'll have to move to safety at the next level.

"There’s definitely been a little chatter about me potentially making the switch to safety. I personally see myself as a cornerback, but like you noted, I’ve played some safety as well. I’ve been versatile....
I definitely feel like I can make a successful transition to safety. I can learn the position while performing at a high level. My prior experience with the position would help me acclimate."

Whereas Melifonwu was a third-round pick, Johnson is projected to be a sixth-rounder. He could be an immediate contributor on special teams, and perhaps eventually grow into a bigger role in the Lions' defense.


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