As we inch closer to the 2021 NFL Draft, teams’ interests and boards start to leak out from different places.
One nugget that slipped out on Sunday morning was the New York Jets’ apparent interest in one of the most talented cornerback prospects in this upcoming class.
Rich Cimini of ESPN shared that the Jets brass is “intrigued” by Syracuse Football cornerback Ifeatu Melifonwu. He also mentioned that he could be a target for the green and white in the “second or third round.”
That range is considered “Day 2” of the 2021 NFL Draft. On Friday, April 30, the Jets have three selections: 34th overall (second round) and a pair of third-round picks (66th and 86th overall).
Cornerback is one of the biggest needs for the Jets heading into this draft
Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither will the New York Jets roster.
Despite having the second-most cap space in the league heading into free agency, they couldn’t solve every problem that caused this team to go 2-14 in 2020.
One glaring weakness that the team ignored on the open market was the cornerback position. The lone addition they made to the group was Justin Hardee, formerly of the New Orleans Saints.
While technically his position label is cornerback, he’s yet to start a game in four professional seasons, per Pro Football Reference. The Jets actually signed him due to his prowess on special teams and leadership ability in the locker room.
In other words, the Jets are heading into the 2021 NFL Draft with a ton of unproven commodities and a lot of question marks at corner.
The top three starters at this moment are Bless Austin, Bryce Hall, and Javelin Guidry. Each of them has red flags: injuries (Hall missed eight games last year, Austin missed five games) or just overall inexperience (Guidry only started two games in 2020).
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That’s where Ifeatu Melifonwu comes in.
A lanky (6-foot-2), speedy (4.4 forty) cornerback that checks off every box that you look for in a Robert Saleh DB prospect.
He’s got NFL blood in his DNA. Ifeatu’s brother Obi Melifonwu was originally selected 56th overall in the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft by the then Oakland Raiders.
Obi has bounced around the league with a few teams including winning a Super Bowl championship with the New England Patriots. He’s currently (and somewhat) ironically playing for the San Francisco 49ers, Saleh’s old stomping grounds.
The Jets own two first-round picks in this year’s class, but likely won’t need to use either if they have serious interest in Ifeatu Melifonwu.
Despite the talent, there are a few concerns that have pushed him down, draft boards.
Bleacher Report NFL Draft analyst Connor Rogers also of the Badlands feed recently said via his Jets draft guide, “my questions with Ifeatu are his lateral movement ability, overall instincts, and missing six games due to injuries from 2018-19.”
Melifonwu would perfectly fit at outside corner for the green and white. He has the versatility to line up all over the field and always seems to be around the ball which indicates great film study.
Over the past two seasons, Melifonwu had 13 pass deflections and three interceptions, per Pro Football Reference.
He’s one of three Syracuse defensive backs that are expected to hear their respective names called on draft day (Trill Williams, Andre Cisco). Don’t be surprised if the New York Jets potentially double or triple dip in the local waters to add some talent to the defensive backfield this offseason.