16 Jul George Karlaftis, Purdue
Redshirt Sophomore (3So) | 6’4” 275 | West Lafayette, Indiana | 4/3/2001
Big versatile defensive lineman that can play a variety of roles and win with power but lacks elite athleticism and needs technical refinement.
George Karlaftis played high school football down the road from Purdue’s campus but originally hails from Athens, Greece. He came to Purdue as a high-four star recruit and one of Purdue’s highest-rated recruits ever. Karlaftis saw the field immediately as a true freshman in 2018, starting all 12 games. Unfortunately, he missed all but three games in 2020 due to injuries and COVID-19.
Karlaftis played a variety of roles and positions for Purdue in 2019. He was asked to two-gap from a four-point stance as a 4iT, along with rushing the passer from a two-point stance as a 9T, and everything in between. But he mostly played in a three-point stance aligned outside either offensive tackle (5T-7T). In limited action during the 2020 season, Karlaftis almost evenly split his snaps between being across from the tackle and outside the tackle. Purdue used more odd fronts in 2020, especially on early downs. Karlaftis played both toward and away from the run strength of the offense and rushed the passer from the B-gap and the C-gap. His size and strength make him a valuable chess piece that can succeed in various ways across many types of defenses.
– Very good frame: big and long with a very muscular frame but could pack on even more weight to be more stout against the run.
– Solid first step: gets out of his stance and upfield decently quickly; consistent across stances (2-point, 3-point, 4-point) and alignments.
– Good play strength allows him to bull rush easily and collapse the pocket, especially as an interior rusher; solid strength against the run, as he does not give much ground when asked to attack zone blocking schemes.
– Good pass-rush skills: can easily push the pocket with power; not built to win with speed and agility, but he added several pass rush moves from 2019 to 2020; hand usage was there in 2019, but he made it much more effective in 2020 to keep offensive linemen off-balance. Excellent ability to close on the quarterback; if he gets a clear shot at the QB, he lays the wood.
– Good block shedding, displays good instincts and timing to discard OL and make a play on the ball carrier, relies on upper body strength to shuck off blockers.
– Very good mental processing and instincts, he can key and diagnose run schemes very easily, displays great instincts to shoot gaps and blow up run plays in the backfield.
– Excellent competitive toughness in all facets: a physically tough player that consistently battles in the trenches; plays the same way from the first snap to the last, and finishes every play to the whistle.
Areas to Improve:
– Lacks elite athleticism: does not consistently explode off the ball; struggles to quickly and fluidly change direction; not a bendy/flexible edge rusher.
– Not as effective against the run as one would assume, given his size. Struggles to hold his ground when two-gapping, especially as offensive tackles get bigger. Easily washed out of his gap by double-teams, both in Gap and Zone schemes.
– Frequently lacked a pass rush plan in 2019, relying solely on strength and power moves (improved on this in 2020, but minimal sample size).
– Hand usage severely lacked refinement in 2019; improved in 2020, especially as a pass rusher, but still has work to do, as he needs to improve his timing and placement.
– Could stand to improve his tackling: he lets ball-carriers slip from his grasp too frequently, and lack of athleticism was exposed when forced to tackle in space.
Missed the majority of the 2020 season, partially due to COVID.
– Suffered lower left leg injury during the second game of the season against Illinois (10/31); returned November 20th against Minnesota but wasn’t 100%; tested positive for coronavirus on November 24th and missed final two games.
Karlaftis certainly looks the part of an impact defensive end. However, he is still difficult to evaluate. The vast majority of his tape is from his true freshman season when he was only 18. In 2019, it was apparent that he was still playing with a high school mindset, in that he relied too much on his brute strength. Therefore, he struggled against better, NFL-caliber tackles (Lucas Niang, Daniel Faalele, Rasheed Walker, etc.). What makes this worse is that there is limited evidence of his growth in 2020. Karlaftis was only fully healthy for one full game in 2020, and it was his best game by far. But he still displayed some issues with maintaining his gap integrity against the run, even when he was healthy.
It would be very possible to see Karlaftis return to his better 2019 form in 2021. Barring an elite year, it’s unlikely Karlaftis declares early. If that elite season happens, it will be for these reasons: he develops into a much stouter run defender, using his strength to hold his ground and maintain gap integrity, and he continues to improve his hand technique and add more pass rush moves to his game. Before his 2020 season derailed, it was clear Karlaftis took some major steps forward; here’s hoping he continues on that trajectory in 2021. He’s the definition of a raw prospect and while I would not take him in the first round, his tools make him worthy of a top-75 pick.
Mitchell Wolfe is from Central Pennsylvania but loves all things Pittsburgh. He recently earned a Master’s degree in Sport Business with a concentration in Sports Analytics from Temple University. Mitch is a graduate of The Scouting Academy and has worked for Pro Football Focus as well. He is interested in developing ways to incorporate data-based decision-making into the scouting and drafting process. In his spare time, Mitch likes to play video games, read about history, or spend time with his fiance and their pets.