By Dylan MacKinnon
Just because the Eagles signed Hassan Reddick, does not mean the Eagles won’t draft a defensive end. The Eagles love to have a deep cast of defensive linemen, so they can rotate guys in and out and keep them fresh. They have lacked that depth in recent years. But with 2 first-round picks, they have the chance to take another defensive end, so they can go 3 deep on the end, and perhaps even 4 deep if they push Milton Williams to the outside on a play. That is where George Karlaftis comes in.
The Purdue product is highly regarded. Some even have him going as high as a top 10 pick. But he is a name worth considering if he falls to the Eagles. Let’s get to know a bit more about George Karlaftis.
Big is an Understatement
If you go back and watch a Purdue game, you won’t have a hard time picking out where Karlaftis is. He is the giant on the end of the defensive line. At 6’4″‘, 265lbs, he looks more like a small defensive tackle than a defensive end. And don’t mistake him for being slow just because he is big. He moves pretty well, with surprising play speed for someone his size.
His athleticism jumps off the tape. It tells the tale of someone with a much higher ceiling than he showed at Purdue. He made Bruce Feldman’s Freak list because he is legitimately freaky athletic. Here is what Bruce Feldman had to say.
“Karlaftis is a remarkable all-around athlete. He played on the U16 Greek national water polo team as a 13-year-old and then became a two-time Indiana state champ in the shot put and started for three seasons on his high school basketball team. At 272 pounds, Karlaftis’ body fat has dropped from 25 percent to 15 percent at Purdue. He power cleans 380, did a 505-pound front squat, a 10-1 broad jump, and a 37-inch vertical jump. His 40 this offseason was 4.69. As part of his preparation, he spends an hour a day doing hand-to-hand combat and MMA drills, an hour on rehab/mobility exercises, and a third-hour watching film.”
A buzzword often attached to DE prospects is “high motor” and it describes Karlaftis to a tee. He is the type of guy who fights until he hears a whistle. Karlaftis is never out of a play because he has the athleticism, and the want, to get back into any play the defense tried to take him out of. He wants to win every single play, and that will to beat his man every time shows on the tape. Karlaftis spoke about that to Draft Wire.
“You’re just one-on-one, mano-a-mano type deal usually. It’s either you win or you lose 99 percent of the time, with not too many draws, so that constant desire to win every single time is what got me addicted to this, really.”- George Karlaftis
Karlaftis burst onto the scene in his freshman year with 7.5 sacks and 17 tackles for a loss. That earned him a unanimous spot on the AP All-Freshman Team. His sophomore year unfortunately was derailed by injuries and covid, so he played in only 3 games. But in those 3 games he was productive enough to still be a Second Team All Big 10 selection.
Purdue edge George Karlaftis became the 1st player to earn 10+ pressures vs an Iowa OL in the @PFF_College era yesterday.— Anthony Treash (@PFF_Anthony) October 17, 2021
If he wasn’t doubled/chipped/cut, he was in the QB’s face. Insane power and get-off. One of the few true “game-wreckers” in #CFB. pic.twitter.com/cAV5Bn1lvm
His final year however, he was back to form. The sack numbers themselves don’t jump off the page, with just 4.5. But he had a lofty 35 hurries, 2 forced fumbles, and also 36 tackles. He was one of 5 finalists for the Ted Hendricks Award which goes to the best defensive end in the nation. It was his second time he got all-conference honors. He became the first Purdue player named to the All-Big 10 team since 2012.
Crazy Work Ethic Turned a Novice Into a Top Recruit
The thing everyone around Karlaftis raves about is his work ethic. Trainers and coaches have spoken about forcing him to leave because he was approaching over training. He is the type of guy where if he is going to do something, he has to commit to it 100%.
“If I start something, I want to be the best at it. When I started, I didn’t know I was going to be this heavily recruited. I was thinking I would have to grind and hopefully get an offer my senior year.” – George Karlaftis to the Journal & Courier
And it took that hard work to get to where he is. It wasn’t too long ago where he had never touched a football. He was born in Greece, and didn’t show up to school in America until 8th grade. Karlaftis was actually a late arrival to school that year because he was back in Greece competing for their National Water Polo Team.
When he showed up, he was the ultimate Football novice. He knew nothing about the sport, to the point it was unclear if he could ever get on the field. But two things stood out. His athleticism, and his work ethic. When he arrived at high school, they made him a kicker, because he wasn’t capable of playing anything else. His kicks were not impressive, but one trait really stood out when he kicked.
“It wasn’t real impressive watching him kick, but every time he kicked, he was the first one down the field. He was running to where he kicked it as fast as he can like a wild man through people.”- Shane Fry, his high-school coach.
But that novice who couldn’t see the field fast became a top recruit. In fact, Indiana offered him a scholarship before he ever played a down of defense. Apparently because he attended a camp of theirs and blow them away with his workout. Once he got on the field his sophomore year, all the colleges came calling. He burst onto the scene with double digit sacks. It was still clear he had a lot to learn, as he got fooled in the run game a bit, but the potential was clear as day.
Every who knows him says he is only going to get better. He was getting comparisons to JJ Watt when still in high school. Which is fitting because watching highlights of JJ Watt on YouTube is how he came to learn the game.
Areas to Improve
Karlaftis is still learning the game, and still growing as a player. That works in two ways. One, it means he has the potential to be even better than he was at Purdue. But it also means there could be some growing pains. Karlaftis has a huge ceiling, but the team that takes him should have patience with the process of him adapting top the NFL.
The biggest area he needs to improve is the run game. He is physical and has the want to play great run defense. but you will see him over pursue, or take poor angles to the runner. His elite athleticism can sometimes work against him. He can get such a head of steam that he blows past the play. Karlaftis does have the ability to get back into plays, but it would be better if he didn’t take himself out of it to begin with. He can also at times rely too much on his athleticism when making a tackle, and fails to wrap up.
The good news is that work ethic we talked about earlier, makes all these issues fixable. You would rather have a guy who needs to be corrected for being too aggressive, vs someone not aggressive enough. If what the people around him are telling the truth, and he does have this insane work ethic, we can rest assured he will dedicate himself to fixing these issues.
What Draft Experts Say
“Edge defender with good power and a relentless motor to keep the heat on offensive counterparts throughout the game. Karlaftis’ best production came in 2019, as he missed half of Purdue’s 2020 season and saw teams focus more energy toward stopping him in 2021. He’s a lift-and-leverage run defender at the point of attack but fits into a “team defender” column more than “premium run-stopper” category. He’s a force-based rusher with anchor-busting power and the ability to get to his counters when the rush begins to stall. With just two full seasons under his belt, there will be more development headed Karlaftis’ way. He’s a future starter as a strong-side defender in an even or odd front.”
“Born and raised in Athens, Greece, Karlaftis moved to the United States and adopted football as his go-to sport, finishing his college career with 30.5 tackles for loss over 27 games. His hands are not only physical and violent, but they’re well timed and strategic to get the offense off schedule. You wish his arms were longer and he had more twitch in his movements, but Karlaftis has NFL power, effort and hand work to break down the rhythm of blockers.”
George Karlaftis has All-Pro potential. His unique combination of size and speed makes his ceiling as high as it can go. he should step right in and be a great pass rusher. But it will require time for him to be an elite run stopper. Coming to a team like the Eagles, where he can play behind Hassan Reddick and Josh Sweat may be ideal. He can just get after the QB at first, while he learns to defend the run better. If Karlaftis is there when the Eagles are on the clock, it will be hard to pass on him.