“I definitely thought it was gonna play out a little bit differently,” Melifonwu said. “There were definitely times (on earlier picks) I thought I would be picked by certain teams.”
Though it may have come slightly later than Obi and UConn fans were hoping for, the pick was still a great moment for UConn Football and Melifonwu will be heading into a good situation in Oakland.
Interestingly enough the Raiders were not one of the teams which showed a lot of interest in him during the pre-draft process.
“I didn’t come in at all (thinking that Oakland would pick me), I was really shocked because after the Senior Bowl I didn’t hear anything from them, I didn’t go on a visit, they didn’t come to work me out... I got talked to at the combine, but I definitely wasn’t expecting that.”
The Raiders have 2016 first round pick Karl Joseph and 34-year-old Pro Bowler Reggie Nelson currently slated to start at strong and free safety, respectively. Melifonwu will compete for a starting job in camp, especially if Joseph moves from the strong to free safety position. If not, he’ll have a chance to learn behind the veterans, play on a rotational basis, and maybe even contribute in special teams early on.
Raiders SB Nation site Silver and Black Pride and its readers seemed to have a positive reaction to Obi, who they profiled before the draft in response to the team’s need at safety:
“He is the closest thing this draft has to a Kam Chancellor type safety, except with superior speed and coverage ability. This 6-4, 224-pounder fits well as a strong safety and matches up well with tight ends due to his length and man-coverage abilities.”
Believed by most to be either a late-first or early-second-round pick, Melifonwu represented solid value at 56 overall.
They nearly took him in the first round. https://t.co/e5Lthd7fze— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) April 29, 2017
CBS Sports’ Pete Prisco graded the pick a “B” with their draft coverage crew noting that Melifonwu can “play multiple positions” and “may be the best athlete in the draft,” adding that “This could turn that secondary into a strength of the team.”
Raider head coach Jack Del Rio also sees Melifonwu as a versatile piece who can contribute in a variety of ways.
“I think he can do a lot of different things,” Del Rio said. “He’s very gifted athletically. The tape is good... He’s played on tight ends. He’s played on receivers. He’s been in the back... Kind of done a little bit of everything.”
Del Rio sees his 2nd round pick as much more than an athletic freak, the label Melifonwu earned after posting impressive workouts at the Senior Bowl and Combine.
“It’s really the tape,” Del Rio shared. “He has good tape that tells you he’s a good football player. Then you watch him work out and you’re like ‘Wow, he’s a good football player with upside.’”
Melifonwu’s new head coach plans on allowing him to immediately compete for a starting job but still have a role if he doesn’t earn it.
“We think this is a guy that can help out with his length, match up against some of the bigger tight ends, some of the better tight ends,” he said. “We’ll put him right in the mix.”
SB Nation draft analyst Christian D’Andrea sees a lot of potential in the four-year starter for the Huskies, calling Melifonwu “the new physical prototype for an NFL safety” due to his size, speed, and range.
With the second and third rounds completed Friday night and the rest of the draft going down Saturday afternoon, there still could be a few Huskies’ names called. Receiver Noel Thomas is hearing from teams but has no indication of where or if he will get picked. OL Andreas Knappe, DT Mikal Myers, and CB Jhavon Williams will have an outside shot as well.
Be sure to stick with The UConn Blog for coverage of the action!