George Karlaftis Draft Profile
In the NFL, success can be equated to scheme fit and coaching just as much as natural talent. While Purdue defensive end, George Karlaftis had an extraordinary collegiate career, I believe a scheme change can take his career trajectory from being a good draft prospect to being a great NFL player. At the combine, Karlaftis measured in at 6’4, 265 lb… there is a lot of meat on his bones. For the Boilermakers, Karlaftis mostly lined up coming out of a two-point stance as a seven-tech for a 4-3 defensive front. In the NFL, I believe a strategic bump inside as a defensive tackle in a 4-3 or staying outside as a 3-4 defensive end would give him the best chance to be an all-pro caliber player. In the NFL, I believe a good example of this is 49ers' defensive tackle who just had his best year as a pro after bumping to the inside. While Armstead and Karlaftis bring different assets to the table, I could see Karlaftis benefiting from a bump inside in a similar way to Armstead. In college, Karlaftis was very good as a 4-3 strong-side defensive end, but in the NFL, I believe he can be great as a 4-3 defensive tackle.
The two areas where Karlaftis stood out the most were his upfield burst and power rush. Karlaftis has one of the fastest get-offs in this year’s draft and beats blockers to the play. One of the biggest reasons why I think he would benefit from bumping inside is because then he will be able to use his power more often than not. Karlaftis hit 21 reps on the bench press at the combine, but that doesn’t do his strength justice. I heard someone describe him as a “hulk-smash rusher”, and I could not agree more. The power that he plays with shows up in his rush and when hitting the quarterback. Karlaftis is a player that you would not want hitting you; he is going to be breaking peoples’ ribs in the NFL. When Karlaftis has lined up as a five tech in the past, his burst has proven to be just too much for an interior offensive lineman. When he attacks the lineman’s inside shoulder, he is just way too fast for guards and centers— it is a mismatch that he should be able to exploit at the next level. Against Oregon State, I had to turn off the tape because it just did not seem fair. The Oregon State offensive linemen looked like junior varsity players trying to stop Karlaftis. He dominated like he was supposed to against a lesser talent like Oregon State, which is a good thing. In the NFL, I see Karlaftis being a player that takes time to develop, but if he finds his footing he could be a huge disruptor.
I am much lower on Karlaftis than the national media is. While he is a very solid power-rusher, it is worrisome that a tight end like Jeremy Ruckert (from Ohio State) was able to pancake him. In my opinion, first-round picks should stand out against the best competition; against Ohio State, Karlaftis was completely shut down. While there are runs where he absolutely blows the play up, it is because he commits hard. He tends to over-commit and leaves wide open run lanes for the opposing team to exploit. The biggest reason why I think he should switch inside is because of his lateral speed, or lack thereof. As I mentioned, he has a tendency to overcommit which allows quarterbacks to step up through wide-open lanes. If they are not stepping up, they try to break the pocket and have an easy time doing it because Karlaftis can’t keep up with them laterally. Against reverses and outside runs, Karlaftis ends up in no-mans-land a lot. When there is a lot of action in the backfield, Karlaftis has a hard time processing everything which leaves wide open holes for players to run through. I believe it would be beneficial for teams to slow the game down for Karlaftis by moving him inside and allowing his big size and impressive strength to disrupt offenses.
There was a time when Karlaftis was viewed as a top ten pick in this year’s draft. The hype on Karlaftis has cooled off since then, but I still see him going in the first round. Personally, I have a late second-round grade on him because I am scared of his low floor. Karlaftis is a boom or bust prospect, but I think there are better options in this year’s draft. He reminds me of a more raw version of Preston Smith, one of the best power rushers in the NFL. Karlaftis doesn’t have the quickness of Smith, but he plays with a similar “hulk-smash” playstyle. Team-wise, I think the Eagles would be a good fit with their second pick on the other side of Josh Sweat. If he falls, I could see the Cowboys pursuing him as a replacement for Randy Gregory or on the other side of Shaquil Barrett for the Buccaneers. Karlaftis is a boom or bust prospect that I would personally stay away from, but he could very well end up being my biggest miss in this year’s draft.
Strength + Power: 7.75/8
Bend + Flexibility: 5.25/7
Run Defender: 6/7
Motor + Adaptability: 5/7
Pass Rush Moves: 4.25/6
Get Off: 5.75/6
Final Rating: 77
Pro Comparison: Preston Smith
Team Fits: Eagles, Buccaneers, Cowboys
Draft Ranking: Late Second Round Pick
Draft Projection: Top 25 Pick