The NFL Draft is rapidly approaching and we still have several prospect profiles to get out.
Throughout this entire draft process, defensive end has been one of the most popular selections for the Eagles in the first-round. They finished second-to-last in sacks last season with just 29. Despite adding Hasson Reddick and retaining Derek Barnett, there’s still work to do in the pass rushing department.
Purdue’s George Karlaftis is one of the best overall defensive ends entering this year’s draft. From his ridiculously high motor to his lower body strength, Karlaftis is primed to have an early impact in the NFL.
Let’s take a deeper look at his strengths and weaknesses and asses how he may fit into Jonathan Gannon’s defensive scheme.
Any conversation revolving around Karlaftis typically starts with his relentless motor. The guy just never stops fighting to get to the ball carrier. His strength and deceptive athleticism shines almost every time you put on the tape.
As a former track star and water polo player, his overall strength shouldn’t surprise anyone. At his size, 6-foot-2, 266 pounds, watching Karlaftis sift through offensive line traffic is pretty remarkable. As strong as he is, Karlaftis doesn’t always rely solely on that strength to win against offensive lineman. He can get skinny through a hole and explode through the line to find the ball. On the edge, he’s shown time and time again that he has the speed to beat offensive tackles, despite being on the bigger end of a 4-3 EDGE.
As a pass rusher, Karlaftis brings a lot to the table. He’s polished from a pass rushing perspective, possessing several pass rushing moves in his arsenal. Per Pro Football Focus, Karlaftis had the second-highest pass rush win rate of anyone in the country last season, finishing the season with a 23.6% mark.
Karlaftis’ PFF pass rush grade of 90.6 in 2021 was in the 99th percentile among all pass rushers, along with his true pass set pass rush grade of 90.8. While he wasn’t as prolific against the run, he was certainly serviceable and it’s clear he has the tools to become a stout run defender in the NFL. In 2021, he posted a run-stop rate of 7.1% and a PFF run defense grade of 75.1.
Along with dominating on the edge, Karlaftis has also shown some versatility in his game throughout his collegiate career. When Purdue wanted to disguise their defense a bit, Karlaftis typically moved to the interior. With his 266 pound frame, Karlaftis proved to still be effective in that role. The Eagles have a tendency to go after versatile defensive lineman. Brandon Graham has made a living with his versatility, and just last year the team drafted Milton Williams in the third-round and played him all over the defensive line in year one. Karlaftis brings that same type of value to the field, while still possessing elite traits that makes him a great prototypical EDGE prospect. It’s hard to find those kinds of athletes nowadays, but Karlaftis certainly falls into that category.
Although Karlaftis is a high energy player and has an NFL-ready frame, there are some that believe he’ll struggle to be an elite pass rusher in the NFL. This mostly stems from his 78 7/8-inch wingspan and his 32 5/8-inch arm length, which placed in the 23rd and 16th percentile among defensive lineman respectively. Longer tackles will be able to stifle Karlaftis because of this, but he still presents enough pure athleticism to alleviate some of those concerns.
Karlaftis could also benefit from a simplified pass rushing pallet. He throws the kitchen sink at opposing tackle and it’s obvious that some of his moves are not as effective as others. It’s great to have a laundry list of moves at your disposal, but narrowing it down to 3-4 go-to moves would probably lead to more production right off the bat.
Karlaftis is not a perfect prospect, but his fall down draft boards as been pretty surprising. His high motor and overall playing strength are two traits that teams typically fall in love with, but for some reason that hasn’t been the case with Karlaftis. Even after the David Ojabo injury, Karlaftis didn’t see much movement at all. Florida State’s Jermaine Johnson was the one who really benefited from the Ojabo injury, as he’s now a consensus top-15 pick by most outlets.
Nevertheless, Karlaftis is a buttoned up prospect with a lot of room to grow. He has all the physical traits you could want in a defensive end — with the exception of his lacking arm length. If he’s able to find a way to work around that limitation, Karlaftis has the makings of a perennial Pro Bowler at the next level.
For the Eagles, if Karlaftis does indeed fall to 15, this is a no-brainer selection. The team has other major holes to fill, but their defensive line isn’t getting any younger. Aside from Josh Sweat, the team doesn’t have much young talent to work with along the defensive line. Karlaftis brings all the versatility you could want in a defensive end and feels like a perfect fit for what Jonathan Gannon wants to do with his defense. And above all else, there’s no doubt this guy has the Dog Mentality that Nick Sirianni covets in his players.
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