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Big weekend ahead for Syracuse’s Ifeatu Melifonwu at Senior Bowl

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Buzz is growing for the former Orange expert cover corner.

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NCAA Football: Wake Forest at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

We’re still several months away from the 2021 NFL Draft, but the road to getting selected has already begun for prospects. One of the biggest steps there? The Senior Bowl, where players are matched up against their peers and can either boost or significantly hurt their stock depending on their performance.

One player that seems to be generating a lot of interest for this weekend’s game is Syracuse Orange cornerback Ifeatu Melifonwu. The redshirt junior was the last of three Orange DBs to declare for this year’s draft, yet is already positioning himself to be drafted highest — especially if he looks good during the Senior Bowl.

The Athletic has already noted him as a top-100 prospect (No. 57), and analyst Dane Brugler sees him as a player who could really rise on draft boards during the event. Pro Football Network already sees him as a round 2-3 guy, while NFL Draft Bible recently told Mike McAllister that Iffy could be a first round darkhorse. PFF has him as a late fourth-rounder at the moment, but also scored him very highly throughout his college career.

Yes, the losses and poor team defense numbers are going to shield some of Melifonwu’s contributions, though anyone that paid true attention to him — especially these last two years — understands just how good of a cover man he is. The tap above is but one sampling of the little things he does very well. And the fact that his brother Obi was drafted in the second round just four years ago likely lends another assist for scouts.

This weekend, up against some of the country’s top receivers, could be a real turning point for his draft stock — and one that not everyone will get this year given the uncertainty around in-person scouting. If he can showcase his talent during the Senior Bowl and validate some higher opinions of him, it could move him even further up draft boards.

Should Iffy go pretty early (first/second round), with Andre Cisco and Trill Williams also hearing their names called at this year’s draft, it could go a long way toward helping Orange football recruiting. As we unfortunately know, there aren’t a whole lot of Syracuse players in the NFL right now, and two of the most notable ones are punters. Getting more (non-special teams) players into the league will only help the sales pitch for Dino Babers & Co. and outline a real pro pipeline for targets.