Leading up to the 2021 NFL Draft starting on April 29th, we will be releasing several draft profiles of prospects who could potentially see themselves on the Pittsburgh Steelers. Next up…
Ifeatu Melifonwu (Cornerback), Syracuse, Redshirt Junior
So far this offseason, the Steelers have lost two major members of their secondary: Mike Hilton and Steven Nelson. In addition with the re-signing of Cam Sutton, this leaves a possible void at the inside corner position. Although there is promising depth in Justin Layne and James Pierre, the Steelers are definitely going to be looking at the draft to help replenish the cornerback room. Who better than Ifeatu Melifonwu to step in?
Standing 6’2” and weighing 212 pounds, Melifonwu has great size for a cornerback. He is a lengthy player, showing about an 80-inch wingspan. He is very physical as well, leading him to be more of a slot corner in his early years in the NFL. To take that a step further, Melifonwu is great in press coverage at the line and can effectively knock a receiver off his route. On run defense and screen plays, he is effective at shedding blockers and wrapping up the ball carrier. He plays best in a zone defensive scheme, which pairs perfectly with the Steelers defense. Melifonwu boasts great hip movement for his size, which leads to easy transitions to maintain coverage downfield on wide receivers.
Although Melifonwu is a lengthy and physical corner, his back peddling needs work. In college on deep routes, he’d get lost in his footwork and lose track of the receiver and the ball. He plays better when the play is happening in front on him, as opposed to being that true lock-down cornerback NFL defensive coordinators dream of. In addition, there were instances of hesitation in his covering. This led to giving up big plays down field and missed tackles.
DRAFT PROJECTION: 2nd Round
Melifonwu is currently ranked as the fourth best corner available in this year’s draft. In mock drafts leading up to late April, we do see some teams jumping on him later in the first round, but the majority selecting him in the second. I do not see him dropping to the third round and am hoping he is available at the Steelers’ 55th overall pick spot.
Melifonwu has shown he can be an elite NFL cornerback. For the Steelers, I love him as that effective slot cornerback that we saw in Sutton and Hilton. I see Melifonwu as a mix between those two players and would be a day one plug-and-play in the Steelers’ nickel packages. If the Steelers are serious about bolstering their depth chart in the secondary, they’ll want to address this early in the draft, as the cornerback position is relatively thin this year. I think Melifonwu has the grit, skill set, and overall athleticism to be a great fit in Pittsburgh.
Where do you think Melifonwu will land in April? Let us know in the comments below!