The Syracuse Orange didn’t have a great 2020 football season, but some of its defensive backs have had standout performances. Two have already declared for the NFL draft, and a third is on his way. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported on Friday evening that Ifeatu Melifonwu will head to the 2021 NFL draft. Melifonwu later confirmed the report on his twitter page.
Syracuse CB Ifeatu Melifonwu has opted into the 2021 NFL draft, according to his agent @seanstellato.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) December 18, 2020
Melifonwu had an excellent junior season as Syracuse’s primary outside cornerback. He was the highest graded overall defender for the Orange by Pro Football Focus with a 78.8 grade. Melifonwu also received the highest coverage grade for Syracuse by PFF with a 79.3. He ranked second on the team in pass breakups with nine. Melifonwu also only allowed two touchdowns on 50 targets.
The South Grafton, Mass. native won’t be a stranger to how the NFL draft process works. His older brother, Obi Melifonwu, was a safety at UConn and was selected in the second round by the Oakland Raiders in the 2016 NFL draft. The elder Melifonwu is currently a free agent after four years in the league with the Raiders and the New England Patriots.
The younger Melifonwu becomes the third Syracuse player this season to leave school early for the NFL. Fellow defensive backs Andre Cisco and Trill Williams announced earlier in the season that they would opt out and prepare for the draft. Both players were injured at the time of their draft announcements.
With the departure of Melifonwu, all eyes turn to Garrett Williams as he becomes the focal point of Syracuse’s secondary. Williams was one of many first-year starters on a young Orange defense that at times struggled to match the physicality of ACC opponents.
Best of luck to Melifonwu as he gets ready to take the next step in his football career.