Obi Melifonwu's stock rose tremendously after he crushed his combine workouts. The UCONN strong safety, who is originally from the UK, shot up draft boards when he posted a 4.40/40-yd dash and jumped out the gym with a 44" vertical and a 141" broad jump. Did I mention he is 6'4" and 224 lbs? This guy is big, fast, athletic, and a heady player.
Melifonwu, who was unknown to most before the combine, was thought to be headed for the first round of a draft that would feature safeties early. When Jamaal Adams slipped outside of the Top 5 and Malik Hooker slipped to #15, Melifonwu's rising stock tempered, giving Carolina a chance to get a guy we thought initially would be out of our price range.
Carolina is interested in a safety and in Melifonwu too. The Panthers have met with him four times. Dave Gettleman affirmed the Panthers were seriously interested in Jamaal Adams if he would have been there #8. Adams, who was the top-rated safety on every big board (including Carolina's) because of his athleticism, the tenacity, and the SEC pedigree that made him "plug and play" to most.
Melifonwu was to most the project player who had the athletic potential but hadn't played against top talent and still needed some refinement. Within the War Room, even Adams was seen as in "need [of] some refinement, but they both bring physicality and immediate impact to their respective sides of the ball."
Maybe the gap between Adams and Melifonwu wasn't as large as we thought. I ran across this breakdown of Melifonwu's tape last week, and it turns out he's not as unrefined as many have characterized. Give this breakdown from the guys at RSP Film Room a look. They methodically breakdown over 30 minutes of Melifonwu film, leaving me convinced this guy is far more than just an athletic talent, he's a darn good player. He's a versatile one too. I think you'll see he has the potential versatility to play either the strong or free safety, which helps a team like the Panthers who don't have the deepest defensive backfield.
We have to be excited about Melifonwu's availability as the second round opens tonight. I'm thinking the Panthers are too!
By Tony Dunn
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