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. Over 10 years later, does Karlaftis possess the scouting report to follow in Kerrigan’s footsteps in the 2022 NFL Draft?
George Karlaftis NFL Draft Profile
- Position: Defensive End
- School: Purdue
- Current Year: Junior
- Height: 6’3 3/4″
- Weight: 266 pounds
- Wingspan: 78 7/8″
- Arm: 32 5/8″
- Hand: 10 1/4″
George Karlaftis Scouting Report
With his declaration for the 2022 NFL Draft, Karlaftis threw his name into a hat containing some impressive pass rushers. With such a depth of talent, it would be easy to get lost in the conversation at the top. In fact, that’s very much what it feels like has happened to the Purdue defensive end this year.
Nevertheless, Karlaftis has a scouting report that suggests he belongs right at the top of this 2022 NFL Draft class of pass rushers. Currently, the Purdue DE is the 11th overall prospect on the Pro Football Network Top 300 Consensus Big Board. Furthermore, he ranks as the fifth-best edge rusher in the class.
Standing at 6’3 3/4″ and weighing 266 pounds, Karlaftis is easily recognizable on the end of Purdue’s defensive line. The Purdue product puts the “big” in big defensive end. However, he’s also demonstrated a remarkable ability to get “skinny” and slide his way through gaps to impact the backfield.
During his college career, Karlaftis proved to be a versatile defensive line prospect. While he aligned primarily as a pass rusher off the edge, the Purdue product has also taken snaps along the interior defensive line as the Boilermakers looked to disguise their defensive formations. As a result, Karlaftis possesses some positional versatility, with the ability to impact from the interior and around the outside track.
Strength, deceptive athleticism, and football intelligence
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 surprisingly moves incredibly well. He displays excellent burst, can change direction smoothly, and has surprising ankle flexion to have decent bend. His combination of size and speed is the stuff of nightmares for opposing quarterbacks. Karlaftis explodes out of his stance like a rocket and eats up ground to the ball carrier with his long strides.
From a technical perspective, Karlaftis has the tools to be an impactful pass rusher at the next level. Although he has shorter arms than some of his contemporaries at the top of the class, 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. Most notable of these is a bull rush that is a further testament to his power.
Moreover, Karlaftis can read what the offensive lineman offers him and win accordingly. This is best shown by multiple examples of him attacking outside and then winning inside against a soft inside shoulder.
Areas for improvement
While Karlaftis is one of the top EDGE prospects in the 2022 NFL Draft, there are some areas of concern and places he can improve. These have contributed to him sliding behind several other pass rushers during his final season with the Boilermakers.
Despite Karlaftis’ impressive 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.
This is potentially a result of less-than-desirable arm length. While this causes issues against the run, there are some issues as a pass rusher too. Against longer-armed offensive tackles who play with excellent hand timing, he can struggle to make an impact. This has been evidenced several times in this last season.
While Karlaftis regularly showcases excellent body control, he can sometimes play with a high pad level. This can result in offensive linemen getting up and under him, limiting his effectiveness as a pass rusher. The Purdue defensive end needs to ensure that he consistently plays with a lower pad level for a high level of NFL success.
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.
Yet, one program held a place in his heart. With family ties to Purdue University, 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.
The young DE 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 first career forced fumble.
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. As a result, Karlaftis headed into his sophomore season with immense expectations.
Unfortunately, a combination of the global situation and injury conspired to limit Karlaftis to just three appearances in 2020. He had a personal experience with COVID, resulting in him spending a mandated 21 days away from the program. Furthermore, an ankle injury led to more missed game time.
Karlaftis’ NFL Draft ascension
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.
Although he didn’t live up to the statistical production of his freshman campaign, Karlaftis put together a stellar final season for the Boilermakers. Standout games came against UConn, Notre Dame, and Northwestern. Meanwhile, the Grecian Goliath found the end zone for the first time in his career with a fumble recovery against Wisconsin.
Finishing the season with 39 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks, and 2 forced fumbles, Karlaftis earned first-team All-Big Ten recognition for his performances. At the same time, some difficult games — namely Ohio State and Michigan State — caused some to cast doubt on his 2022 NFL Draft stock.
Despite this, Karlaftis has a scouting report packed with NFL potential. While not considered an elite athlete by some, he showcased his explosiveness across the NFL Combine and Purdue Pro Day. Registering a 9.21 Relative Athletic Score, Karlaftis recorded a 38″ vertical and 10’1″ broad jump. A surprising athlete for his size, he has the skill set to be one of the top pass rushers off the board, even in this deeply talented class.
Tony Pauline’s scouting report on George Karlaftis
Positives: Long, athletic pass rusher who impacts the game. Plays with excellent lean, keeps his feet moving, and shows strength in his lower body. Rarely off his feet, breaks down well, and easily changes direction. Slides off blocks, fluidly moves about the field, and is very quick. Fires off the snap out of a three-point stance, plays with terrific pad level, and gets leverage on opponents.
Quick up the field and displays the ability to bend off the edge. Forceful and effectively uses his hands to protect himself. Immediately alters his angle of attack in backside pursuit, stays with assignment, and possesses a closing burst.
Negatives: Lacks bulk, gets easily washed from the action on running downs, and gets handled by big offensive tackles. Sack totals were nothing outstanding.
Analysis: Karlaftis is a hard-working, athletic pass rusher with a large upside. Consistently drawing double-teams from opponents, he was effective out of a three-point stance as well as standing over tackle and offers potential in a variety of systems. While he needs time to physically mature and complete his game, Karlaftis could potentially be a monster pass rusher at the next level if properly coached.