In round two of the NFL Draft, the Oakland Raiders selected safety Obi Melifonwu out of the University of Connecticut. With that pick, the Raiders doubled down on the secondary making it back to back picks to start the 2017 draft that were secondary players after the Raiders added Gareon Conley in the first round.
But unlike Cconley, who was about as safe a pick as you can get as far as on the field goes, Melifonwu is much more upside than he is a finished product. With Conley, the Raiders got a guy who may not have as much upside as some of the other corners in the draft, but he’s also very, very unlikely to be a bust. At worst, Conley is a solid starting corner, at best a true number one.
With Melifonwu, the ceiling is much higher and the floor is much lower.
Melifonwu has the physical and athletic traits of an elite player. He’s big, fast and agile. He put on one of the most impressive performances of any player at the combine and his draft stock has been rising ever since.
At first, I was pretty cautious about Melifonwu because most of the talk was about him as a first rounder. While he has insane potential I felt like this draft has so many good players who are ready now, I didn’t want to take a project in the first round.
But when Melifonwu fell to the Raiders at the end of the second round? I was all for it.
It’s a pick that gets you a player who has top ten physical traits even if he has the polish of a third rounder. At the end of the day, it’s obviously possible that Melifonwi is unable to develop into anything more than an athlete who plays football. But if the Raiders can develop him, he could be one of the most dynamic and impactful secondary players in the league.
Melifonwu is a guy who can play either safety position, cornerback and some even think he can play linebacker. He’s a Swiss Army Knife of the secondary. Whatever the Raiders need, they can get from him. They have to be careful though. They would be best served choosing a position and allowing him to learn that role rather than having him try and learn to excel in multiple positions.