Purdue edge defender George Karlaftis is one of the best — if not the best — edge defenders in the 2022 NFL Draft. That may seem like a hot take considering Michigan’s Aidan Hutchinson and Oregon’s Kayvon Thibodeaux have been lauded as the best in class for what feels like forever, but Karlaftis is our top player at the position — for now — and should be a top-10 pick by the time April rolls around.
What makes Karlaftis such an exciting prospect is his all-out hustle from snap to whistle. Few players in this year’s class have the non-stop motor he possesses, and it often leads to production in the backfield via quarterback sacks or tackles for loss. It’s a trait that’s a byproduct of his deep passion to win… every rep.
“Football isn’t a lot like other sports, like basketball, where you have like a shot percentage and your shooting percentage and three-point percentage and blocks and all that kind of stuff,” Karlaftis told The 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. I don’t know if that’s the right word, but you know.”
Semantics aside, Karlaftis’ intensity is contagious. His impact will extend beyond just a defense’s on-field production; his play is of the type that can change a culture too. He’s obsessed with the game, and it’s that obsession that usually turns into a leadership role in an NFL locker room.
“I wanted to become better and better and better, so I was exhausting all my time and all my resources into becoming the best player I can be,” Karlaftis said. “This is probably later in my life and in college, whether that was finding guys that were good at MMA and boxing and that kind of stuff, and picking their brain and working with them. I work with my position coach for extra conditioning, extra strength work, extra film work, mobility work with the trainers.
“Just all-around exhausting every resource [so] that I could become the best player, and just thinking about it, even just sitting at home watching TV, subconsciously thinking about football. That’s going to get you better if it was just thinking about something, and thinking about it and thinking about it, you might figure something out. So just that obsession.”
George Karlaftis is a physical freak
A big chunk of Karlaftis’ final grade will be his athletic scores at the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine, which gets underway from Indianapolis on March 1. He’s expected to do well, especially after being ranked No. 7 on Bruce Feldman’s 2021 College Football Freaks List.
“At 272 pounds, Karlaftis’ body fat has dropped from 25 percent to 15 percent at Purdue,” Feldman wrote. “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.”
Those are some scary numbers for a player with Karlaftis’ physical makeup. If his NFL Scouting Combine performance is anywhere near those scores, he’ll lock up his status as a top-10 pick.
I currently have Karlaftis headed to the New York Giants at No. 5 overall in my latest 2022 NFL Mock Draft; it’s a slotting that seems rich for some, but the more information that comes out about Karlaftis’ physical and mental traits, mocking him in the top five picks seems just right.