“Beat the hands, beat the man.” A saying true for edge defenders at both the collegiate and pro levels, it’s been a statement to live by for Purdue 5-tech George Karlaftis. Dubbed the “Greek Freak” of the CFB landscape, whose toolbox as an outside pass-rusher rivals the top prospects in the class, his story has gone relatively untold and his skill set has been massively underrated as we head into the meat of the pre-draft circuit. A resident of West Lafayette, Indiana following a move from Athens, Greece in eighth grade—when he initially began playing football—Karlaftis is still in the honeymoon phase with the gridiron in comparison to his fellow draft-eligible athletes. While he wasn’t granted the opportunity to compete in the trenches at a young age, where prospects today first put on the pads before they ever learn to tie their shoes, his grace period to learn the intricacies of football from the inside-out allowed little room to finagle his way from position to position. And while the saying goes it takes nearly “10,000” hours to truly master a craft, the expeditious approach to his learning process and ability to transfer it within the hashes has introduced a prospect with one of the highest performance floors in the entire 2022 class. While his sack numbers won’t jump off the page, microscoping Karlaftis’ deep toolkit outside the tackles has produced some of the most impressive tape this fall. As prior mentioned, everything for the 6-foot-4 defender starts up top with his hands. He wins early, wins often, and in a multitude of ways. Whether it's a quick rip move to grease the edge or a “catch” of the opposing tackle’s hands to then quickly swim to the inside, he’s as technically refined as they come this spring. Although he doesn’t possess elite burst off the edge or ideal flexibility in his ankles to bend the edge and shorten angles around opposing linemen, it’s his knack for consistently converting power to speed that sneaks up on tackles tasked with blocking him. That makes it a tall task to keep him off the sack sheet and outside of the pocket for a full 60 minutes. Although it’s been an easy comparison to make, and one that has made its way around inner circles for quite some time, his skill set out of Purdue has mirrored that of former Boilermaker All-American and the Washington Football Team’s franchise leader in sacks, Ryan Kerrigan. Two of the least sexy prospects in their respective classes, neither would go first off the board if you lined up each pool of talent in a t-shirt and shorts, but when you strap up and are forced to block ‘em, heads turn and pads pop. While Kerrigan had less of an athletic profile than Karlaftis, who’s a fluid mover in space, Kerrigan—like Karlaftis—won consistently with refined technique and a game that constantly evolved to win technically instead of relying on physical gifts to get home. It’s not that Kerrigan couldn’t bend and use speed around the edge, but compared to classmates in Von Miller, J.J. Watt, and Robert Quinn—all 2011 selections ahead of Kerrigan—he didn’t match up. It’s similar to this season's crop of talent in Aidan Hutchinson, Kayvon Thibodeaux, and David Ojabo, who each possess their own unique athletic traits, that, when compared to Karlaftis, trump the Bednarik Award finalist… and there’s nothing wrong with that. While Kerrigan’s accomplishments need no further explanation, comparing him to Karlaftis, and how the former Purdue standout will immediately leave his footprint at the NFL level has presented one of the more intriguing prospects in a class without a bonafide No. 1 talent. Where some edge prospects may open eyes in the 40-yard dash or jump out of the gym in the vertical, Karlaftis is all about production under fire. He’s a talent who has the necessary tools to mirror one of Purdue’s most successful alums. The sexy pick may sell jerseys, but if you’re an organization desiring future regalia, Karlaftis is a cornerstone to build upon.
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