It’s been no secret the Carolina Panthers have been in need of a strong safety. It’s a position Carolina has struggled to find a sustained solution, plugging journeymen or veterans in from year to year. This year may just be the year Carolina seeks a long-term solution that will round out a an up and coming secondary and allow Kurt Coleman to move to free safety, his more natural position.
While many, including myself, believe Jamal Adams could be a real option at #8 overall, Carolina is vetting players who may fit the bill if Adams isn’t available or the organization believes a player like Leonard Fournette, OJ Howard, or Derek Barnett is the better value. Obi Melifonwu from the University of Connecticut may just be that player.
The Panthers have met with Melifonwu four times (Senior Bowl, Combine, Pro Day, private meeting, and private workout). At the Combine, Carolina took Melifonwu out to lunch, indicating they liked what they saw. Last season, met and had private workouts with all players they drafted outside of the very last selection in Beau Sandland.
Carolina may like Melifonwu, but getting him is a different story. Jamaal Adams is a tempting option at #8. It’s not a guarantee, however, he will be available at #8 or if Dave Gettleman will be able to pass on that Blue Goose pass rusher he loves. He’s been hesitant to invest a lot at strong safety until this point, so I’m not sure how confident I feel on him pulling the trigger on Adams either.
NFL.com projects Melifonwu as a 1-2 round player, who may lack some natural football instincts, but more than makes up for it with size and athleticism. It’s hard to believe that a guy with these measurables who runs a 4.4/40yd (fastest Combine time among safeties) will still be around at #40. Carolina, however, does have two second round selections and may just use one to move up into the late first or early second to grab Melifonwu. Let’s just say the force is strong in this one, so don’t be surprised if this documented interest translates into an aggressive pursuit of Obi.
Meliwonfu has the size and athleticism that stands out at strong safety in today’s NFL. The Brit, who is from London, is 6’4 and 224lbs. He’s long, rangy, and has the speed to close on players downfield. He’s not afraid to tackle either. The four-year college starter amassed 348 tackles and 8 INTs at UCONN. 50% of those interceptions were in his senior season. He led the team in tackles (128) that season. He’s not just a freakish athlete, he’s getting better.
By Tony Dunn
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