The first round of the NFL Draft came and went on Thursday night without promising UConn safety Obi Melifonwu getting picked. The first half of the round was more offensively oriented than expected, which pushed fringe first round defensive prospects into the second round.
With the second and third rounds coming up tonight, here’s where the updated mock drafts have him landing:
Walter Football: Seattle Seahawks, Round 2, No. 34 Overall
The Seahawks have been linked to Melifonwu since the Senior Bowl and have met with him four times since then. His size and athleticism fits the mold they look for in the Legion of Boom. Some expected Seattle to take him at No. 26, but they traded down twice to end up with their current slot. It’s possible they expected Obi to still be available eight picks later and picked up some extra draft capital in the meantime.
Christopher Knox (Bleacher Report): Carolina Panthers, Round 2, No. 64 Overall
From one end of the draft to the other, Bleacher Report has Melifonwu sneaking into the end of the second round. While being a second-round pick certainly has a nicer ring than third, it could be more beneficial for Obi to be the first pick of the third round instead. According to cap expert Miguel Benzan, third round picks are eligible for the Proven Perfomance Escalator, which increases the fourth-year salary if they play over 35% of snaps over their first three years.
SB Nation; MMQB; Sporting News; Lance Zierlien (NFL.com): Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Round 2, No. 50 Overall
Tampa Bay has been a popular landing spot for the former Husky, with earlier mocks projecting the Buccaneers to take him in the first round. They’re in desperate need of safety help, with both their starting safeties struggling last year and departing in free agency. In Tampa, Obi would have the chance to step in his rookie year and compete for a starting job.
USA Today; Bleeding Green Nation: Los Angeles Chargers, Round 2, No. 38 Overall
Since All-Pro safety Eric Weddle left in free agency last year, the Chargers have lacked a playmaker in the secondary. Melifonwu (4 INT last season) could fill that hole for Los Angeles’s new team while also providing stability in the back of the defense for year to come.
First Coast News: New England Patriots, Round 3, No. 72 Overall
It would be a shock if Melifonwu slipped this far, but he would be going into a good situation. The Patriots have one of the deepest secondaries in the NFL so he would have the chance to develop his rookie year while still seeing some action.
He could potentially step in as the starting strong safety in 2018 with the incumbent Patrick Chung getting up there in age, while also taking a step back in his play last season. It doesn’t hurt that Gillette Stadium is less than an hour drive from his hometown of Grafton, Massachusetts.
Other Notable Projections
CSN Philly: Cleveland Browns, Round 2, No. 52 Overall
CBS Sports: Houston Texans, Round 2, No. 57 Overall
ESPN Insider: Dallas Cowboys, Round 2, No. 60 Overall
Bleacher Report (Matt Miller): Minnesota Vikings, Round 3, 79 Overall