The Falcons love to collect athletes with talent, and another opportunity may present itself soon. Dan Quinn and company, who were previously interested in Raiders strong safety Obi Melifonwu when he came out in the draft, could look to acquire him as Raiders head coach Jon Gruden reportedly becomes increasingly becomes frustrated with the health of Melifonwu.
As Vaughn McClure reported in 2017, in the same piece that first mentioned the Falcons’ interest in Duke Riley, the team also had its eye on the safety from UConn, Obi Melifonwu. So, like I said earlier, the Falcons have likely been keeping tabs on a former draft target.
He could truly be be a surprise cut for the Raiders, and while some of the fans there proclaim him as their future starting strong safety, others await his release and it increasingly appears that he won’t be a Raider much longer.
Will the Falcons have interest?
Although he has a poor history with injuries in his brief career, I could see DQ and TD being interested. Melifonwu is a second year player with a lot of athleticism and plays like a prototypical Falcons strong safety/weakside linebacker hybrid.
That could make him a good depth option behind Keanu Neal, who risks injury all the time with his physical style of play and brutal shoulder tackles. The Falcons can also can throw him in at the line of scrimmage at times as long as McClain or Senat is beside him (to eat up attention, allowing Obi to use his athleticism and agility), or can slide in at the WILL linebacker. If he’s healthy, there’s no real reason the Falcons wouldn’t have interest in bringing him in.
What’s his scheme fit?
In a Cover 4 look, Obi could rotate into the curl to flats with DeVondre Campbell, the SAM linebacker, while also putting less pressure on Duke Riley. Riley seems to lack confidence thus far, despite the coaching staff’s votes of confidence.
The Falcons run Cover 3 primarily, and Obi could play WLB and run the flats as well, given his athleticism, length and ability to finish plays, as shown previously in college and in his time in Oakland thus far. Melifonwu, who has shown himself to be primarily a run stopping guy, should be a solid fit for such a role. Campbell and Obi bring a lot to the table as the WILL and SAM in any zone look, with Riley and Foye Oluokun providing depth.
On top of that, in Oakland, he was used at least once in a six man pass rushing package called “Overload” against the Dallas Cowboys and forced a pass to the hot receiver worth very little. His edge rushing ability is definitely there in a very situational role, yet his IQ as a rusher could improve. However, it’s extraordinarily unlikely that would be his role for the Falcons.
Knowing DQ, I have no doubt in my mind that if Obi is healthy, Quinn, along with guys like Jeff Ulbrich, Doug Mallory and Marquand Manuel can transform such an athletic force into a solid player.
Now don’t get this wrong, he would probably be a rotational guy for Duke and Foye, or a cheaper and younger replacement for Ron Parker, but the chance of Melifonwu being an asset is definitely there. I mean, Obi had a 44” vertical jump and an 141” inch broad jump in last year’s draft combine. That was in the 99th percentile for both drills. I wasn’t kidding when I said he was athletic, and we know how the Falcons feel about athletes.
If Melifonwu is not released by the Raiders, which still seems possible considering they just signed former Falcon safety Quincy Mauger to play the same position, then I believe the Falcons could even consider offering a late round pick for him. Keep your eyes out, Falcons fans!