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Ifeatu Melifonwu

Preseason Scouting Notes: Ifeatu Melifonwu, CB, Syracuse

RS Junior | 6’3″ 198 lb | South Grafton, MA

 

A defensive back who has impressive speed and ball skills to cover deep routes and be a ballhawk

 

Overview:

Ifeatu Melifonwu, younger brother of Obi, came to Syracuse as a 3-star recruit, redshirting and serving as a backup in his first two seasons before earning a starting spot in 2019. In 13 collegiate games, he’s accumulated two interceptions and 13 pass break-ups, meaning he gets his hands on the ball at least once a game. The redshirt junior’s speed and ball skills have allowed him to thrive in the Orange’s defense that used a mix of zone and man coverages.

Strengths:

– Has very good acceleration and solid hip mobility to turn and run and stay in-phase on deep routes
– In zone coverage, he can read the quarterback’s eyes to anticipate throws and has a good sense of when he can leave his zone to make a play on the ball
– He has good peripheral vision to recognize receivers coming into his area
– When in-phase and not facing the quarterback, he turns his head to locate the ball and is very good at tracking it in the air
– Great timing with his hands at the catch point to get PBUs
– Impressive hands and body control to make diving interceptions
– He’s a decent open-field tackler, using good pad level with a consistent wrap-up, and he looks to strip the ball as the second tackler in a gang tackle

Areas to improve:

– Isn’t comfortable in press coverage as he double clutches when he punches and lacks the play strength to affect the receiver at the line of scrimmage when he does land his hands
– Bites on head fakes at the line of scrimmage and down the field in coverage
– Doesn’t force reroutes within the five-yard window and when passing receivers off in zone coverage
– Against 90-degree or more routes and double moves in man coverage, he struggles to say in-phase because he has adequate change of direction skills and doesn’t recognize routes well
– Lacks the play strength and balance to hold up at the top of routes against push-by moves.
– Gives little to no effort in run support and in pursuit when he’s not targeted
– Against screen blocks, he has no physicality at the point of attack and lets wide receivers come up and block him

Injury concerns:

2019: Lower Leg injury (missed 3 games)

Projection:

As a junior, Melifonwu will have the option to return to school at the end of the year, which may be in his best interests. Currently, he projects as a late day three pick as a sixth- to seventh-rounder. A team that uses a lot of off-man coverage and Cover 3 would be a good fit for him. That way coaches can give him help on inside routes and hide his lack of line of scrimmage skills. Ultimately, Melifonwu’s speed and ball skills make him draftable, but aren’t enough to overcompensate for his other flaws.

What to watch in 2020:

Can Melifonwu show off some positional versatility? A lot of people view him as a safety, but he’s almost exclusively played at cornerback in college and is somewhat pigeonholed into a very specific type of scheme at that spot. The defensive back’s draft stock could significantly benefit by showing off some versatility because it will increase the number of potential suitors. If he’s going to stick at corner, then Melifonwu needs to improve at reading and recognizing routes in man coverage. That would help make up for some of his change of direction issues.