B.C. Lions add former second-round NFL pick, freakish defensive back Obi Melifonwu to negotiation list

Photo courtesy: Eric J. Alper / New England Patriots

The B.C. Lions have added former second-round NFL draft pick, defensive back Obi Melifonwu to the team’s negotiation list.

The six-foot-four, 224-pound Melifonwu was selected 56th overall in the 2017 NFL Draft by the Oakland Raiders, but struggled to see the field due to injury in the five years since his selection. He is currently a free agent after being released by the Philadelphia Eagles in September.

Melifonwu signed a four-year, $4.5 million contract with the Raiders as a highly touted rookie out of the University of Connecticut, but was immediately placed on injured reserve after his first training camp with a knee inury. He would return for five games in the middle of the season, only to be placed back on injured reserve after season-ending hip surgery.

The safety returned in 2018 but was once again injured in training camp and cut by the team following his recovery in October. Melifonwu signed with the New England Patriots two weeks later, playing in two regular season games and the AFC Championship as the Pats won Super Bowl LIII.

Melifonwu remained on New England’s practice squad for the 2019 season, but was released by the team ahead of the 2020 campaign. He returned to the NFL in 2021, briefly signing with the San Francisco 49ers in the offseason before spending training camp with Philadelphia. He would suffer his third camp injury and was waived on September 14.

In total, Melifonwu played just eight games in his NFL career, posting 11 total tackles, but CFL scouts remain intrigued about what the athletic defender could bring to the three-down league if healthy. B.C. made sure to claim his exclusive rights, adding him to their negotiation list on January 17.

In 48 games played during his tenure at UConn, the free safety racked up 351 total tackles, 11 tackles for loss, eight interceptions and 24 pass deflections. He earned first team All-AAC honours his senior season and catapulted his draft stock with a strong week of practice at the prestigious Senior Bowl.

At the 2017 NFL Combine, Melifonwu cemented his status as a top prospect by putting up some freakish athletic numbers. He blazed a 4.40 second forty yard dash, before showing off his explosiveness with a 41-inch vertical jump and an 11-foot, 9-inch broad jump. Those two numbers are tied for fourth and second in modern Combine history, respectively.

The Lions already have a star-studded secondary, with Delvin Breaux, T.J. Lee, Marcus Sayles, Loucheiz Purifoy and Gary Peters all under contract, but have made defensive back talent the focal point of their defence in recent years.

Should Melifonwu be lured north, the 28-year-old would provide a tantalizing option to compete with KiAnte Hardin and Austin Joyner for the last remaining spot in the defensive backfield, with the versatility to play safety, corner, halfback or strongside linebacker. In turn, the once-coveted prospect could use the CFL as a launchpad to get one last healthy shot at an NFL camp.

J.C. Abbott is a University of British Columbia graduate and high school football coach. He covers the CFL, B.C. Lions, CFL Draft and the three-down league's Global initiative.