The Buccaneers have addressed some needs during this off-season. Safety is still a concern even after signing J.J. Wilcox. University of Connecticut standout Obi Melifonwu could fix the secondary needs.
The NFL Draft is under one month away at this point and this is one of the deepest drafts in a while. While the Buccaneers had some issues early last season on defense they really gelled at the end of the year. Mostly their issues occurred in the secondary and lack of elite talent. The signing of J.J. Wilcox helps with the big hits but he does have issues giving up big passing plays. The Buccaneers let Bradley McDougald walk who was their best coverage safety. Keith Tandy was the best overall safety but he was a back up at the beginning of the season for a reason.
If the Buccaneers want to get another piece to shore up the back-end they have to focus on the draft. There are no more studs left in free agency but the draft is loaded. There is plenty of talent at the top like Jamal Adams, but he is likely not to fall past ten. Budda Baker is another name to watch but UConn’s Obi Melifonwu is climbing draft boards extremely quickly.
Melifonwu was raised in South Grafton, Massachusetts played running back and defensive back at Grafton high. He rushed for 1,394 yards and 17 touchdowns in his senior season while recording three interceptions. He was also a track star in long jump and triple jump. Only a two star recruit he signed with Connecticut remaining only an hour away from home.
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As a true freshman he red-shirted, remaining on the sidelines all season. In 2013 he started all 12 games where he finished second on the team with 70 tackles. Obi also was able to force turnovers recording two interceptions and two forced fumbles. Named as an Honorable Mention to the Freshman All-American team by Scout.com and to the AAC All-Academic team.
Playing for a weaker division one school Obi decided to stay for all four years. Starting 47 of 4 games he improved every season. Increasing his tackle numbers each year he became a leader on a team that actually had a respectable defense. Having a top 20 scoring defense in 2015 is solid for a program that hasn’t won more than eight games since 2007.
As a senior he had his best complete season. Starting all 12 games he racked up 128 tackles. Almost setting a team record against Tulane, Obi recorded 24 tackles. He was named to the first team All-American Athletic Conference, All-ECAC and All-New England honors. He became a better ball hawk getting a career high four interceptions, recording two in his final game. Obi was invited to the 2017 Senior Bowl where he turned heads with athleticism. With a fifth round grade before the bowl he went up to a second rounder right after it.
Obi Melifonwu really made a name for himself at the NFL Combine. He had the best 40 yard dash, vertical jump, and broad jump for safeties. Showing off that he still had some track abilities he jumped our of the gym. His vertical, 44.0 inches, and broad jump, 11′ 9″ were the best in the entire combine. His 4.4 40 yard dash was eighth best overall. Melifonwu has prototypical size for an NFL safety at 6’4″ with fantastic speed. He showed that he could follow in the footsteps of fellow UConn combine freak, Byron Jones.
Obi Melifonwu is a potential pro bowler. His match-up abilities are great for the NFL level tight ends. He can also run with the fastest of slot receivers. As a tackling machine and not penalized often he has the key traits to develop him an elite safety in the league. To put it pretty bluntly he’s a freak. Post combine, he has climbed into first round mocks.
My pro-comparison for he is a young Kam Chancellor. Chancellor is an All-World Safety in the league but with similar size, speed, and athleticism Obi’s got the potential to match him. He’s got the potential to be the next best safety in the league but he’s needs a great coach. Mike Smith, Brett Maxie, and Jon Hoke are great coaches. Obi actually met with Brett Maxie already.
Tampa Bay has a need for a play making safety that can pack a punch. In a division with Greg Olsen, Julio Jones, and which ever receiver Drew Brees feels like throwing to, the Buccaneers need a security blanket. If he’s available early in the second round Jason Licht will not be afraid to make a move. If they feel he’s the best guy on the board it won’t surprise me if he’s the pick at 19.