With the emergence of some Senior Bowl standouts, there has been a hush amongst those juniors that were not eligible to attend. One of these guys not getting talked about enough lately is Purdue’s George Karlaftis. Once mocked as a top-10 selection, Karlaftis has seen his name slide a bit in these mock drafts. This is only temporary, most likely, as his stock will pick up steam again come NFL Combine time. This is a player who took college football by storm in his freshmen season in 2019, slowed down a bit in 2020 due to Covid-19 concerns, but picked right back up again in 2021. However, is Karlaftis worth this assumed hype? Let’s find out.
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Name: George Karlaftis
Jersey: No. 5
Position: Edge Rusher
Weight: 275 lbs
Games Watched: Notre Dame (2021), Iowa (2021), Oregon State (2021), TCU (2019)
Major Injury History: None
Pass Rush (14.5/15)
Buckle up. Karlaftis has a full bag of tricks that he’s not afraid to use. For starters, someone at 275-pounds, Karlaftis is a very underrated speed rusher. He has nice footwork to move inside and then out on a lineman. This was demonstrated all over Karlaftis’ film, but it’s not his strong suit these days. Back in 2019, when Karlaftis looked at least 30 pounds thinner, he was a big-time speed guy, so he can still use this now.
In terms of moves, Karlaftis has a great spin move and a textbook club to rip through and past the lineman. Now’s the time, you may ask, how did this guy only have 14 sacks throughout a three-year playing career? Well, Karlaftis was double a ton. He was doubled so much in the Notre Dame game that it got hard to watch. This is also Karlaftis’ next step in development, believe it or not. He must learn to start beating double teams. In the same Notre Dame game, when left alone, he went loose on both tackles and manhandled the right guard as well. Keep in mind the Fighting Irish consistently have great offensive lineman, and they looked like boys compared to Karlaftis.
Karlaftis is a super quick player who still has a serious build. He just rockets off the line into the lineman and immediately begins his pass-rush. Karlaftis can speed around guys, as we mentioned, and is fast when in pursuit of the quarterback or ball carrier. While Karlaftis’ main ways to assert himself as a star in the league may come in other aspects, this is another sneaky ability that he has that may catch some tackles off guard at first.
First Step (8.25/10)
This is an interesting one. Karlaftis doesn’t necessarily get off the line quicker than anyone else out there, but what he does within the first two seconds of the rep is incredible. He uses his explosiveness to get right into the lineman, sometimes even stunning them and often moving right around said lineman. If Karlaftis can get quicker off the snap by a few milliseconds, then he will be lethal at the next level (even though he’s looking that way already).
Someone at 6-foot-4 and 275-pounds that looks as big as Karlaftis should not have this good of a bend. Coming into the report, this was the expected major weakness of Karlaftis, but wow, is that incorrect. Instead, Karlaftis showed great bend on both edges of the line and does well to apply his hands to seal off the lineman from stopping Karlaftis when he bends around for the pressure.
Hand Usage (10/10)
Not often do players get a full grade on any trait, but Karlaftis does twice in this report. Starting off with that hand usage, it’s a bit two-fold. In one aspect, Karlaftis has active hands that are great on counters, which is where most of his finesse comes from. Then, there’s the pop. Karlaftis’ hands are crazy strong and absurd to watch. In one play against Notre Dame, Karlaftis got his hands right at pad level of the tackle and basically pushed the player into his own quarterback for a loss in the backfield. This is a superstar trait for Karlaftis and a huge reason he should get drafted early.
The best player on the team can often be looked at as an alpha of their unit, and Karlaftis is just that. Even against TCU in 2019, he made a TFL, got amped from it, and his teammates swarmed him. Then, they fed off that energy for a stop on the next play. Karlaftis has continued to stay relentless throughout his career, and it will translate to the NFL in a big way.
The grade here could probably be even higher if there were a bigger sample size. The one weakness in Karlaftis’ tackling has been letting quicker guys get outside of his tackle radius. This is on rare occasions. Otherwise, Karlaftis is a violent tackler. He’s seen quite often throwing quarterbacks to the ground and nailing them for big hits even after the ball is thrown at times. He treats the player with the ball like they are a rag-doll and is another thing that will get Karlaftis’ teammates to rally around him.
Strength at LOS (10/10)
The second of our perfect score traits, Karlaftis, is a mauler on the line. In all four games watched, one player was able to actually drive him back, and that was Oregon State’s tight end Teagan Quitoriano. This happened on only two plays over four games. Everyone who’s faced Karlaftis has been constantly pushed back. There is no moving this guy, and lineman finds themselves on their backs more often than not. Karlaftis simply destroys the guy opposite him en route to the quarterback.
Run Defense (8.25/10)
Some consider Karlaftis to be an elite-run defender, and while he’s better than a ton of the edge rushers in this class, it’s not quite up there yet. With that being said, the potential is all there. The frame, strength, and technique can all mix together to create a superstar run stopper at the next level. We say he’s not elite simply because he’s been inconsistent.
Karlaftis will get pushed to the middle on a run schemed right at his gap and then come back and push right through the lineman for a TFL. The other thing Karlaftis must do besides improve consistency is prevent cutbacks. Sometimes when he’s stuck in a stretch to the opposite side, Karlaftis can get too stuck in that direction, allowing a back to break one big with a cut. All in all, the flaws are there, but Karlaftis can get to the level he wants to eventually.
Purdue was smart to use their best player all over the place. Now, he’s not someone who will drop into coverage, but when the Boilermakers saw a mismatch anywhere on the line, they’d use Karlaftis to exploit it. He mostly stays on the left edge, though he has moved over to the right quite a bit. Karlaftis has been slotted on the inside as well. Here, he definitely succeeded in college, but there are obvious concerns that he’s too small to line up inside consistently in the NFL due to size. This will be a wait-and-see type deal, but he does have the strength to play inside occasionally.
This evaluation was certainly different than expected. Coming in, Karlaftis was teetering on the brink between Edge 3 and Edge 4 in this draft. Now, he is the top edge out here. This does seem a little absurd to say, and Kayvon Thibodeaux may be the better pick due to upside; he was more of a game wrecker than anyone in this edge class. The number of double teams he drew is not seen from any other top edge guy. No offensive coordinator schemed for a player more besides Kyle Hamilton. Overall, Karlaftis is a top-five talent, and while he’ll most likely fall out of this range, any team who takes him will be getting a potential superstar within the next three years.
Rookie Projection: Potential Top-20 Edge Rusher
Third-Year Projection: Potential Top-Seven Edge Rusher
Player Grade (91.5/100): Top-10
Player Comparison: J.J. Watt
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