George Karlaftis brings power and relentless effort

The Chiefs took Purdue edge rusher George Karlaftis with the 30th pick of the first round. It was a safe pick given his game, but how does he grade out?

After a year of musical chairs at the defensive end spot in Kansas City, it seemed inevitable that the Chiefs would use a high-round draft pick on the position heading into the 2022 NFL Draft. The position lacked depth, but more importantly, production, as the Chiefs pass rush, failed to make a significant impact during the 2021 season.

After trading pick 29 to the New England Patriots to move up and get cornerback Trent McDuffie, it left the Chiefs some options with what they could do with pick 30, but the team had their mind made up going with a safe pick in Purdue defensive end George Karlaftis.

At 6-foot-4 and 275 pounds Karlaftis fits the mold for what Steve Spagnuola is looking for in his defensive ends, and with the size, he brings a combination of power, physicality, and a motor that never runs cold.

The native of Greece is in a lot of ways still a developing player, and at only 21 years old the Chiefs’ defensive coaching staff will have a chance to develop him over time. Even though he’s raw, Karlaftis is a player who can come in and contribute quickly due to how natural he looks playing the position.

Recording 14 sacks in three seasons at Purdue he was able to put up good production numbers for a college player, but his impact at rushing the passer was felt even on plays when he couldn’t get home. An absolute load to block one on one, Karlafits has natural lower body power and explosion through the hips. When he gets leverage on an offensive tackle there is a good chance he is going to crush the pocket.

Teams started to try to counter this by having their tackles try to jump set or quick set off the edge and just try to fight power with power, but as he progressed through the years Karlaftis was able to develop some solid moves including a rip, long arm, and hand swipe to compliment his speed to power off the edge.

He will need to work to grow his pass rush arsenal and become more consistent with his counter moves or secondary moves, but his straight bull rush has the potential to be a problem very quickly, especially since he plays with solid pad level, and despite having shorter arms can still get hands-on and drive through a blocker.

A tough and instinctual run defender, he is rarely out of position and will stick to the scheme as much as he can. He has the size to hold up against double teams, and he can usually find a way to set the edge when defending the outside zone.

The critical thing to remember when evaluating Karlatis is that he is far from a finished product. The Chiefs went with a youthful approach to the draft this year and Karlaftis might be the best example. A young player who showed tons of potential had good film, but still has room to grow at the next level.

I like this pick but I don’t love it.

That’s not to say Karlaftis won’t be a good and productive player in Kansas City. I think he is more than capable of that, and he could very well be a ten-sack-a-season type of player. The one thing that he will have to overcome will be that he doesn’t have elite bend around the arc as well as short arms. No matter how much development the staff does with him those are two things that can not be taught, and something all the greats at the position have.

Karlaftis doesn’t have to be great though, and he seems to fit the mold almost the best of every player the Cheifs took on the defensive side of the ball. Many thought the Chiefs would load up on multiple edge rushers, but Brett Veach took a different approach. He drafted five defensive backs, and with the signing of Justin Reid in free agency, it seems like the team wants to emphasize building through the secondary and winning with coverage.

How does Karlaftis fit in?

When quarterbacks don’t see men downfield they hold the ball longer, meaning offensive linemen have to block longer, and high motor pass rushes can make an impact on the game. They drafted Karlaftis because of his power and the all-out effort he displays. It may not be an immediate impact, but he has the tools to develop into a difference-maker for Kansas City.