Tony Romo is no longer a Dallas Cowboy, instead the lead analyst at CBS Sports, leaving the Cowboys to move on from yesterday’s silver-and-blue earth shattering news and focus on not only the players at hand but the ones that could find their way to Dallas in the upcoming 2017 NFL Draft. Obi Melifonwu is one interesting name that the Cowboys seemingly have a lot of interest in, meeting with him at the Senior Bowl, Scouting Combine, and privately in Connecticut before bringing him in for a top 30 visit yesterday afternoon.
Source: After talking with UConn safety Obi Melifonwu at Senior Bowl and Combine, Cowboys flew back to UConn 2 meet with him privately today
The athletic safety out of UCONN (you already know where this is going) blew the doors off of the Combine (again, take the hint), elevating his draft stock despite the issues that show up on his tape.
Personally, I have a third round grade on Obi Melifonwu – with a full scouting report available here. However, the Cowboys saw fantastic immediate results when they drafted a safety in the first round for the first time since 2002 in another UCONN Combine star – Byron Jones in 2015.
Byron Jones is an invaluable piece of a Dallas Cowboys’ secondary that is going through a bit of a rebuild right now. Adding his former college teammate in Obi Melifonwu to create another rotation at safety could go a long way in quickly tightening up the Cowboys’ passing defense.
Yes, the Cowboys had a solid secondary in 2016 thanks to the play of now-departed CBs Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne, but they also excelled at rotating Jones with Barry Church, J.J. Wilcox, and occasionally Jeff Heath at safety to create different looks. With Church and Wilcox also signing elsewhere in free agency, a high draft pick will need to be added for the Cowboys to keep the same contingency plan at safety.
Not only could Melifonwu compliment Byron Jones in a similar “Barry Church” type role at the line of scrimmage, but he does flash as a deep safety with incredibly intriguing pro traits in run defense.
Never backing down from a chance to get to the football and finish, Melifonwu’s impact would be felt in Rod Marinelli’s defense right away as another athletic stud with room to develop into a draft day steal.
I’ve written a lot more specifically about Obi Melifonwu and his potential fit with the Dallas defense with “Dallas Cowboys 2017 NFL Draft Target: UCONN Safety Obi Melifonwu“, but the above film clip and quote from that breakdown shows you just one of the flash plays that make Melifonwu so intriguing.
There is a reason the Cowboys were more than okay with moving on from aging players in their secondary in favor of testing their hands in a draft class absolutely loaded with impact defensive backs. At his best, Melifonwu is one such player at safety – although he has recently drawn some intrigue from other teams around the league as a CB prospect.
Unfortunately limited as a true pass defender, Melifonwu would have a very specific “enforcer” like role on the Cowboys defense – as they’ll also look for progression from Jeff Heath and second-year player Kavon Frazier.
It is likely Obi Melifonwu’s versatility and raw traits that have the Cowboys so interested in a possible all-UCONN safety tandem – in addition to the fact that Melifonwu can be their replacement for Barry Church and J.J. Wilcox in one player.
The 28th overall pick may be too high for me to draft Obi in a vacuum, but the Cowboys won’t be the only team that love his potential, and if they also fall in love with the player off the field through these visits we can expect to Obi Melifonwu find his way to America’s Team.