The New York Giants need help in their defensive secondary, and as it just so happens a freak defensive back just became available.
The Oakland Raiders surprised many around the NFL media-scape when they released 2017 second round pick Obi Melifonwu Thursday afternoon.
Breaking: #Raiders have cut safety Obi Melifonwu. Second-round pick last year waived/injured— Vic Tafur (@VicTafur) August 23, 2018
As a second-year player, Melifonwu is not yet eligible for free agency and will hit the waiver wire. By virtue of having the second pick in the 2018 draft, the Giants have the second claim on the waiver wire behind the Cleveland Browns. So, there is a good chance they will be able to get any player on whom they put a claim.
So, should they? Well, that might be complicated.
We reached out to Levi Damien of Silver and Black Pride for some info on Obi, and this is what he had to say.
He is injured. And he’s been injured a lot since he got here. [Raiders coach Jon] Gruden seemed to question his desire this offseason. He is also not a big hitter, but he wraps up well. Other than that, he has not played a snap at his given safety position for the Raiders, so I don’t have a whole lot more info on him.
He was seen as a hybrid safety, more of a strong safety who could cover tight ends.
Melifonwu was on the injured reserve twice in 2017, suffering an ankle to start the season, followed by a hip injury two weeks after returning from the IR — he had season-ending surgery on the second injury in December of 2017.
Since then it seems he hadn’t bought in with the Raiders’ new coaching staff.
It is possible that in a new environment — one like, say, the Giants, where the head coach strives to develop a personal relationship with his players, the defensive coordinator runs a streamlined, aggressive defense, and has invested in veteran mentors for young players — Melifonwu might buy in and unleash his freakish athleticism.
And he IS an athletic freak, all you have to do is look at his spider chart from last year’s combine to see that:
In his scouting report for him, NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein said:
Elite size with premium athletic traits that should show up at combine testing. Four-year starter. Sharp focus when ball is in the air. Takes path to the ball with undercut of the route at the last second. Plus hand-eye coordination to flip the field with interceptions. Former cornerback who has the athleticism to cover matchup tight ends and some big slots. Posted six interceptions over last two seasons. Uses big frame to body-up seam-runners and constrict their windows. Downhill tackling machine. Plus range with a wide net to bring runners down once he gets his arms into them. Body-up hitter. Drastically reduced penalties totals over junior and senior season.
BOTTOM LINE Big and athletic, he may lack the coverage qualities and instincts needed to work as a “last line of defense” player in a pass-happy division. Melifonwu is an effective downhill tackler who has the ability to match up against tight ends and make a living near the line of scrimmage. His football instincts aren’t up to par, but the size and traits will be extremely enticing for teams who covet traits first.
So, should the Giants put in a waiver claim on Melifonwu?
We don’t know what the truth is with his health and where he is mentally. It should be noted that the Raiders are also in a contentious standoff with Khalil Mack, and there might just be a personality conflict here as well. A new environment, close to home, with a new coaching staff could be what the young man needs. Or not — those of us on the outside just don’t know, and that adds an element of risk.
Personally, I would put the claim in.
The Giants need help in their secondary and Melifonwu is a legitimate athletic freak who offers some positional versatility. The Giants have moved Ray-Ray Armstrong to the nickel linebacker spot to help account for tight ends, but Melifonwu could help in that capacity as well.
But what sets this apart from looking at veterans like Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, George Iloka, or Breshaud Breeland is that Melifonwu is on a rookie contract and if he buys in he would under control for a low cost for the next three seasons. And if he doesn’t work out, he could be released relatively painlessly.
What do you think Giants fans?