Growing Pains: Raiders Rookie Melifonwu Begins Process

Oakland Raiders rookie safety Obi Melifonwu
Oakland Raiders rookie safety Obi Melifonwu (20) stretches during NFL football rookie minicamp, Friday, May 5, 2017, at Raiders headquarters in Alameda, Calif. (AP Photo/D. Ross Cameron)

Obi Melifonwu, the second round pick from this year’s NFL Draft, made his season debut in week 9 against the Miami Dolphins and played in his second game this past weekend versus the New England Patriots in Mexico City. With mixed results from both games, let’s dive into Melifonwu’s progress so far this season.

Coming out of the University of Connecticut, Melifonwu had a solid career for the Huskies. But, what gave him his fame and rising stock in the NFL mock drafts, was his great combine in Indianapolis. It was there, Reggie McKenzie and Jack Del Rio saw their safety of the future and made Melifonwu the #56 pick in last Aprils draft.

The combine star had a rough start to his NFL career. During the preseason, Melifonwu injured his knee and was placed on injured reserve shortly afterwards, which guaranteed he would miss the first eight weeks of the season. The Raiders activated the former UCONN star for the Dolphins game and played decent in his limited game action. The strong safety made three tackles on his seven snaps. Melifonwu flashed some of his raw athletic potential on his combined tackle on Damien Williams with teammate Khalil Mack in this game.

Unfortunately, his second game didn’t go as smoothly. With Ken Norton’s defense shorthanded in the secondary, only three active defensive backs for the Patriots game, Del Rio rolled the dice and moved Melifonwu to corner. Not only did the Raiders move him to DB, but the second rounder actually started alongside TJ Carrie in this game. The experiment was not successful. Even though Melifonwu only allowed two receptions versus the Patriots, one of those was the 64 yard bomb from Tom Brady to Brandin Cooks to start the second half.

To be fair to Melifonwu, he was put in a very tough position in just his second career game against the New England Patriots passing attack. Not many defensive backs can stay with the weapons the Patriots have. Nonetheless, the safety played timid and looked like a rookie making his first start at cornerback, a position he hasn’t played since his senior year in high school.

Overall, in his first two games, Melifonwu did his best to adjust to the speed of the NFL. You can see that the potential is their but the talent will take some time to develop. With Reggie Nelson off the books next season and potentially off the team, Melifonwu will have the inside track to starting alongside Karl Joseph. The next six games will be huge in the development of the 23-year old from England.


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