NFL Draft News and Rumors 2.0: George Karlaftis, DeAngelo Malone, Marquis Hayes updates, and more

The 2022 NFL Draft is just a day away, and the news and rumors are flying around the league. Here is the latest we are hearing.

The 2022 NFL Draft is just a day away, and the news and rumors are flying around the league. Here’s the latest we’re hearing on George Karlaftis, DeAngelo Malone, and others in the lead-up to one of the league’s premier events.

Where will Karlaftis ultimately land in the draft?

Purdue star defensive end George Karlaftis has built a strong reputation with NFL teams because of his steady production and football-first mentality.

And the 6-foot-4, 276-pound All-Big Ten selection and third-team All-American ranks first in quarterback hits (14) and in the vertical leap at 38 inches, and he’s second in pressures (54), hurries (35), the short shuttle (4.34), and weight in comparison to fellow edge rushers available in the draft: Aidan Hutchinson (Michigan), Kayvon Thibodeaux (Oregon), Travon Walker (Georgia), Jermaine Johnson II (Florida State), and David Ojabo (Michigan).

The native of Athens, Greece, ran the 40-yard dash in 4.71 to 4.76 seconds at the Purdue Pro Day, insisting that he run outside in frigid, 30-degree weather conditions in front of 30 NFL teams.

“The Arizona Cardinals, who Karlaftis visited in addition to conducting a private workout for the Philadelphia Eagles and meeting with the New York Jets, are regarded as one of his strongest potential destinations in the first round, according to league sources.”

Karlaftis had 18 formal meetings at the NFL Combine, including the Cincinnati Bengals, Minnesota Vikings, Cleveland Browns, Jets, Detroit Lions, Miami Dolphins, and Eagles, per a league source. Wherever he lands, Karlaftis is regarded as a plug-and-play type.

Karlaftis gets high marks from scouts for power, pass-rushing repertoire, athleticism, and character. He recorded 5 sacks, 11.5 tackles for loss, 3 forced fumbles, and a touchdown last season. In 2019, he was a second-team All-Big Ten selection with 54 tackles, 17 for losses, 7.5 sacks, and 1 interception. He was voted second-team All-Conference again in 2020 despite limited time due to injuries and COVID-19 shortening the season.

NFL teams doing late homework on DeAngelo Malone

NFL teams are intrigued by Western Kentucky pass rusher DeAngelo Malone, the Senior Bowl Defensive Player of the Game.

Malone visited eight teams but also had some late virtual meetings during the draft process. The 6-foot-4, 240-pounder had Zooms with the Cardinals and the Kansas City Chiefs, according to a league source. He is regarded as a strong potential Day 2 draft target.

The two-time Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year visited the Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, San Francisco 49ers, Tennessee Titans, Philadelphia Eagles, Denver Broncos, and Atlanta Falcons. He also had private workouts with the Buffalo Bills, Colts, and Cincinnati Bengals, according to a league source.

At his campus pro day workout on March 31, Malone ran a 4.54 in extremely windy conditions. He had a 1.60 10-yard split, a 35 1/2-inch vertical leap, a 9-11 broad jump, a 4.36 short shuttle, and a 7.06 three-cone drill. Malone’s also bench-pressed 225 pounds 23 times. The Atlanta native has 10 1/8″ hands, 33 3/8″ arms, and a 79 3/8″ wingspan.

Operating at linebacker and defensive end at the Senior Bowl, Malone had 6 tackles, including 3 solos. He added a half-sack and 2 quarterback hurries.

Named Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year for the second time with 17.5 tackles for losses, 9 sacks, and 94 tackles with 4 forced fumbles, Malone set the school record with 34 career sacks. He finished with 349 career tackles, 60 tackles for losses, and 45 quarterback hurries.

Malone considered transferring to Illinois to play for current Texans coach Lovie Smith before deciding to stay at Western Kentucky. Smith wanted him to join him at Illinois. Now, their paths could potentially cross again.

Oklahoma guard Marquis Hayes in demand

Oklahoma guard Marquis Hayes has drawn strong grades and steady interest from NFL teams throughout the evaluation process. Hayes has met with 22 of the NFL’s 32 offensive line coaches overall. Hayes had virtual meetings with the Green Bay Packers, Buffalo Bills, New York Jets, and the Baltimore Ravens, according to a league source. He’s been graded as high as a potential third-round draft target.

At 6-foot-5, 324 pounds, the St. Louis native has ideal size, strength, and blocking skills and hails from a school known for producing NFL-ready offensive linemen (like Kansas City Chiefs center Creed Humphrey).

An All-Big 12 second-team selection and first-team academic All-Big 12 choice, Hayes was named to the Senior Bowl all-star game. He started 13 games last season at left guard. As a junior, he started 11 games at left guard and allowed just 2 sacks on 416 passing snaps and 0 sacks, hurries, hits, or pressures in a Cotton Bowl victory over Florida.

A former top-five guard recruit nationally, Hayes chose Oklahoma over competing scholarship offers from Iowa State, Miami, and Missouri.

Interest increasing in Virginia safety Joey Blount

Virginia safety Joey Blount has drawn increasing interest on the heels of an impressive pro day workout.

Blount (6-2, 205) ran the 40-yard dash in 4.38 seconds, bench-pressed 225 pounds 20 times, and had a 38-inch vertical leap with a 10’7″ broad jump.

Blount visited the Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals, Los Angeles Chargers, San Francisco 49ers, and Pittsburgh Steelers and had a private workout for the Atlanta Falcons, according to a league source.

He’s a rangy, instinctive defensive back who was ultra-productive for the Cavaliers. Blount finished his career with 306 tackles, 5.5 sacks, and 9 interceptions. He had 87 tackles and 3 interceptions last season.

Brent Howell, Blount’s defensive coordinator at Virginia and current Vanderbilt defensive coordinator, previously praised him in an interview with Pro Football Network.

“Joey is someone that’s really passionate about the game, someone that has football instincts,” Howell said in a telephone interview. “It’s innate to him. He just gets around the ball. He understands where the ball is going to be, and he’s there fast. He triggers fast. He sees stuff. He plays fast. He doesn’t hesitate. He’s a guy who loves the game and plays passionately. He was a really productive player. Every year, he made havoc plays.

“He’s a football guy. Joey comes from a really good family. He was raised really, really well. He has a great support system. As much as he’s a good football player, he’s a really, really good person. He took advantage of his education at Virginia and is a leader in the community. Joey is an awesome person. He’s a great human being.”

Aaron Wilson is the NFL Insider for Pro Football Network. Follow him on Twitter: @AaronWilson_NFL.

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