The last time Purdue had a player selected in the first round of the NFL Draft, George Karlaftis didn’t even live in this country. From Athens, Greece, to West Lafayette, his journey has been a remarkable ascent to pass-rush dominance at Purdue. Suitably, the player Karlaftis is most commonly compared to is Ryan Kerrigan, who just so happened to be Purdue’s Round 1 prospect in 2011. Some 10 years later, does an early scouting report show that Karlaftis can follow in Kerrigan’s footsteps in the 2022 NFL Draft?
George Karlaftis NFL Draft Profile
- Position: Defensive End
- School: Purdue
- Current Year: Junior
- Height: 6’4″
- Weight: 275 pounds
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George Karlaftis Scouting Report
Standing at 6’4″ and weighing 275 pounds, Karlaftis is easily recognizable on the end of the Purdue defensive line. In fact, the Purdue product puts the “big” in big defensive end.
His predominant use during his freshman season was on the edge, although he did see some usage inside. Last season, he saw more time inside as Purdue switched to an odd front for their defensive line. Put simply, his size means that Karlaftis will be scheme versatile at the NFL level, increasing his value in the draft.
With size comes impressive strength. Karlaftis’ high school heroics in track and field are a testament to his incredible upper body strength. The Purdue DE uses this on the football field, with multiple examples of him walking opposing linemen back towards the quarterback when hitting them square on.
The most impressive aspect of Karlaftis’ scouting report is his overall athleticism. For his size, he moves incredibly well, surprisingly so. He displays excellent burst, can change direction smoothly, and can often be found chasing down the opposition. His combination of size and speed is the stuff of nightmares for opposing quarterbacks.
From a technical perspective, Karlaftis has the tools to be an impactful pass rusher at the next level. His hand usage allows him to overcome offensive tackles around the edge. Moreover, the Greece product has demonstrated several pass-rush moves in his arsenal.
Furthermore, he can read what the offensive lineman offers him and win accordingly. This is best shown by multiple examples of him attacking outside then winning inside against a soft inside shoulder.
Areas for improvement
Karlaftis projects to be one of the best pass rushers in the 2022 NFL Draft. However, there are some areas of concern and places he can improve.
Although he showcases stellar athleticism with surprising speed for his size, he isn’t particularly bendy around the edge. He lacks flexibility in his legs or ankles to come flying around the outside track. As the NFL leans more towards flexible and speedy edge rushers, that could be detrimental to his draft stock.
Despite Karlaftis’ impressive tackle for loss statistics, there is room for improvement in how he plays against the run. The Purdue DE needs to work on shedding blockers more quickly to impact the ground game consistently. Some examples on tape of a failure to wrap up the ball carrier allowed for unnecessary extra yardage given up.
George Karlaftis’ Player Profile
Born and raised in Athens, Karlaftis hadn’t played a down of football until the eighth grade. Although his ascent to football stardom belied his late start to the game, it was clear that his superior athletic profile would allow him to succeed at any sport. As a sophomore and junior at West Lafayette High School, he was a state champion in the shot put while also competing in javelin at a high level.
Karlaftis’ phenomenal upper body strength was put to good use on the football field. Even as a junior, his pass-rush prowess attracted national attention. Regarded as the best player in Indiana, 247 Sports listed him as a four-star recruit and the fourth-ranked defensive end in the nation. Naturally, he was courted by programs across the country. Offers flooded in from Alabama, USC, Clemson, and Ohio State, in addition to in-state attention from Indiana.
Karlaftis spurns national attention to stay close to home
Nevertheless, one program held a place in his heart. With family ties to the University of Purdue, Karlaftis committed to the Boilermakers in October of his junior season. Combined with the family connection was an appreciation of the coaching staff in Jeff Brohm and Nick Holt.
“Purdue is home, it’s family, and we are going to do some big things in the coming years,” said Karlaftis at the time of his commitment.
The young defensive end still had some big things to achieve at the high school level first. In his final season at West Lafayette, Karlaftis led the team to a 15-0 record and the Indiana Class 3A state title.
His incredible senior season production took his career totals to 332 tackles, 84 tackles for loss, and 41 sacks. Accolades rained down as he was named the Indiana Class 3A Player of the Year, the national Defensive Player of the Year, and the Indiana Mr. Football Defensive Lineman of the Year.
Karlaftis’ career at Purdue
Although he’d predicted big things to come for the Boilermakers, Karlaftis couldn’t have predicted the immediate impact he’d make. The true freshman displayed early disruptiveness in his college debut, registering 4 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, and a half-sack. Then, just two weeks later, he secured his first full sack against TCU while adding an interception to his résumé.
Karlaftis’ first season was littered with standout performances. During the game against Penn State, he posted a career-high 8 tackles, 3 for loss, and 1 sack. Later in the season, against Wisconsin, Karlaftis secured his only career forced fumble to date.
His first season at Purdue yielded 54 tackles, 17 tackles for loss, and 7.5 sacks. The young defensive end led the team in tackles for loss while tying the team lead for sacks. Unsurprisingly, he earned first-team Freshman All-American honors while securing second-team All-Big Ten recognition.
After his phenomenal freshman season, the expectations were high for Karlaftis heading into 2020
Unfortunately, a combination of the global situation and injury conspired to limit Karlaftis to just three appearances in 2020. He had a personal experience of the issues impacting the world, resulting in him spending a mandated 21 days away from the program. Furthermore, an ankle injury led to more missed game time.
When he did find the field, however, Karlaftis exhibited his destructive tendencies on the line. Although the box score will show he tallied just 4 tackles in 2020, those comprised of 2 tackles for loss and 2 sacks. Despite all the missed time, Karlaftis still earned second-team All-Big Ten honors. Meanwhile, his intelligence was recognized with Academic All-Big Ten honors.
With less than two months until the start of the 2021 college football season, the expectation is once again high for Karlaftis. A return to something even close to his freshman form will ensure that he is one of the best defensive ends in the nation.Thus, he should ensure that Purdue has a first-round prospect in the 2022 NFL Draft for the first time in over 10 years.
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Oliver Hodgkinson is an NFL Draft Analyst for Pro Football Network. You can follow him on Twitter at @ojhodgkinson.