Updated: Jul 11
Say hello everyone to the Lions 3rd round selection in the 2021 NFL Draft, Ifeatu Melifonwu, Defensive Back from the Orange of Syracuse University...
Like a few of our picks this year his name rolls off the tongue, the pronunciation is Iff-e-r-two Mel-eye-fon-woo.
If you think you recognise that last name it's because you do. His older brother Obi, a Safety out of UConn, was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys back in 2017 so it would appear football runs in the family as does their liking of hitting offensive players 😅
Let's all get to know him a little better together. He was part of a secondary who were all successfully drafted this season including S Andre Cisco (Jacksonville) and CB Trill Williams (Miami), so they collectively have good pedigree and he comes from a solid unit, take note I call Ife (for short) a defensive back and that's because at 6ft3 he offers the length and range to potentially play a multitude of positions at the next level.
As a 3 star recruit in 2017, Ife committed to Syracuse but decided to sit his first season to learn the game and bulk up his long frame. It would pay dividends when he entered 2018 as a true freshman as he saw his first action after impressing on special teams when a player went down with injury and he would step in and record a TFL and break up a few passes.
Much like Prison Break, Ife was about to breakout and put his name on people's lips as he would get his hands on the ball twice for two interceptions and break up a further 7 passes in just 9 games, it's safe to say at this point he was gaining fans and learning how to use his magnificent frame to his advantage.
Fast forward to 2020 he was in the best shape of his life. The older and wiser Ife amassed over 50 tackles, 3 TFL, a sack and an interception to go with a plethora of pass breakups on his way to All-ACC 2nd team honors, while solidifying himself as part of one of the nations most underrated group of corners with Trill and Garrett Williams 👏🏻
He took the big decision to waive his final season of eligibility and declare for the 2021 NFL Draft with some of his teammates and accepted an invitation to the Senior Bowl where he could display his talents in front of NFL coaches. At his pro day just like his brother Obi he tested fantastically with a RAS score of 9.69, athletically he is in some of the top % groups in the country.
If you've made it this far you're probably thinking Ryan what does he offer and where will he fit in...?
Some big boards and rankings had Ife as a lock in round two potentially sneaking into the back end of the first round, that's how high his ceiling is. He is built like a giraffe, has the wingspan of a large bird of prey and a very well rounded game.
Where he lets himself down is back pedal pace and speed when in man or press, if he's beaten at the LOS working on consistently flipping his hips fluidly and maintaining his rhythm will be what he needs to work on the most when moving backwards against the faster wide receivers.
A few people were put off taking him based off the fact his brother, who also excelled athletically, has had a very disappointing career to date but he's not his brother and he shouldn't be written off before he's taken a single snap. He has the potential to be one of the steals of the draft if he can tweak his game and get in the mindset of been less handsy and rough which lots of young defensive backs fall foul of, leading to penalties.
In an ideal world Ife improves his run support coming downhill and helping in the box and utilises his size and range to help a group of safeties right now that has lots of question marks hanging over it, whilst refining his coverage and fighting for snaps with Amani Oruwariye and learning from Quinton Dunbar. What I do know is we're getting a young man who will do the dirty work and be one of the first to put himself forward for special teams from day one.
I've got a really good feeling about this pick even though it probably took many by surprise, this secondary is crying out for a difference maker on a team that's rubbish at generating turnovers and that's me been polite 🤐