NFL Draft Matchup: Isaiah Foskey vs. George Karlaftis

Ryan Roberts looks at the NFL Draft impact for standout ends Isaiah Foskey of Notre Dame and George Karlaftis of Purdue
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When we think about prospect matchups, we understandably think about head-to-head action. We want to see a cornerback and wide receiver going at it, or an offensive lineman in one on one pass protection against a defensive lineman.

We are taking a slightly different angle this week.

Everyone knows Purdue defensive end George Karlaftis III. He is among the crown jewels of the 2022 edge class currently, having landed in West Lafayette with a ton of fanfare and expectations. Karlaftis lived up to every one of those expectations as a true freshman, now sitting with a big grade from me this summer.

The path for Notre Dame defensive end Isaiah Foskey has been a little more of a journey but the now junior is starting to round out into the player that the Irish staff envisioned when they snagged him from De La Salle High School in California. In a week that Karlaftis would normally be the main attraction, Foskey has the opportunity to put his name amongst the most talented pass rushers in all of college football - and the NFL Draft landscape.

THE GOLDEN BOY FROM GREECE

It has been a long and interesting journey for Karlaftis. From Athens, Greece to West Lafayette, Karlaftis was late to the game of football. He quickly assimilated, developing into one of the top recruits nationally in the 2019 cycle. That hype quickly turned into production as a true freshman, finishing with 17 tackles for loss and 7.5 quarterback sacks.

That type of production was not matched during the 2020 season, dealing with an abbreviated Big Ten season and a bout with COVID-19. Karlaftis, now draft eligible, is back to assert himself as one of the dynamic players in the class and in all of college football.

LIMITLESS CEILING

Foskey, on the other hand, has been forced to wait his turn behind some talented pass rushers over his first two years on campus. Fighting for reps with a quartet of drafted pass rushers in Julian Okwara, Khalid Kareem, Daelin Hayes and Adetokunbo Ogundeji, Foskey was regulated to mostly special teams as a true freshman. His athleticism would shine, even in that role.

As a sophomore, he would be given a rotational role alongside Hayes and Ogundeji, finishing second on the team in sacks (4.5) despite playing a limited volume. Through two games in 2021, it is apparent that Foskey’s breakout has become a priority for the Irish. On a weekly basis, he is flashing the big time potential that could allow him to rise to a top fifty player if his progression continues.

Although viewers will never see Karlaftis and Foskey on the field at the same time, this matchup provides some NFL Draft intrigue from both sides of the coin. It is an imperfect comparison but both players have more to gain than some may believe.

WHAT THE MATCHUP MEANS

For Karlaftis, he is still in the process of proving that he belongs in the top tier of edge rushers for the 2022 NFL Draft class. Following his true freshman campaign, that type of progression would have taken nobody by surprise. The haphazard 2020 campaign, however, did little to cement that fact. Through two games, Karlaftis has been disruptive but the production has yet to follow. Working against a struggling Notre Dame offensive line, this is a huge opportunity for Karlaftis to recapture the hype he had once built.

From a physical perspective, size and power quickly jump off the film when watching #5. He has the heavy hands and edge setting presence you would expect from this profile. As a pass rusher, he is more of a converter than a flexible rusher. He makes his money getting his body aligned and creating a ton of power in tight spaces. Then there is his closing burst. The amount of distance Karlaftis closes at his size is uncommon. If he continues his progression, a top ten selection is not out of his question. A huge game working on a national stage against Notre Dame could go a long way to getting there.

This matchup is a completely different opportunity for Foskey, presenting an opportunity to assert himself on the NFL Draft landscape and stealing some of the fanfare that Karlaftis brings. He also is set to face a less than impressive offensive line unit for Purdue, that could offer some big time opportunities.

From a physical perspective, Foskey clearly looks the part, boasting long limbs and plenty of athleticism to boot. There is a wide variance of outcomes for a player like Foskey. He could realistically see his stock range anywhere from the back of round one to somewhere on day three. If the latter is the case, an important thing is to remember that we are still dealing with just a redshirt sophomore. It’s possible that 2022 just isn’t his time - but if very well may be.

This game against Purdue, currently sits as the best opportunity to date for Foskey to grab some attention. If he is able to shine brighter than Karlaftis, then this could be the start of a dramatic rise.

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