This is a great defensive end group, and there is a lot of talent and depth. Many have Kayvon Thibodeaux at the top, and he is talented but is he the best in the class? Purdue's George Karlaftis is playing his way into the EDGE1 discussion and has the talent to surpass Thibodeaux.
Purdue is very talented, but it isn't very often that they get a talent like Karlafttis. The West Lafayette native had offers from Alabama and Clemson but stayed loyal to his hometown. 247sports had him as a five-star recruit, and he was a projected first-round pick by them.
It didn't take long into Karlaftis' career to show he had that kind of upside. He had 14 pressures in the first game of his career against Nevada. Karlaftis went on a tear the rest of the season, finishing with 55 pressures and 7.5 sacks. On film, he displayed incredible play strength for a true freshman. Karlaftis was the best freshman in the nation at converting speed to power and had a great pass rush arsenal. It didn't matter the opponent; Karlaftis looked like the best player on the field. Having that kind of impact doesn't happen from a freshman. It is rare, making Karlaftis a potential blue-chip talent when he was eligible.
Similar to several top-tier prospects, the Covid impacted year hurt Karlaftis as a sophomore. Due to an injury and shortened season, Karlaftis wasn't able to take that jump. His lack of film from his sophomore campaign was evident in preseason rankings, with many people, including players like Drake Jackson and Zach Harrison, being put in the same tier as him. The freshman film was excellent with Karlaftis, but he needed to take that next step during his junior year to separate for them and put himself in the same conversation as Thibodeaux.
So far this season, Karlaftis has been one of the best players in college football and has shown any doubter that he is a blue-chip talent and on the same level as Thibodeaux, if not better. He already has 16 pressures in four games, and no offensive lineman has posed a threat to him. Karlaftis has taken that next step and then some. He has power, speed and athleticism. There isn't anything he can't do. Against his best opponent Notre Dame, he made their tackles look like JV players. Karlaftis was always in the backfield and threw his opponents around on almost every down.
What makes him special is how NFL-ready he is. Karlaftis has arguably more pass rush moves than any other player in the nation. Against the run, he wins the leverage battle and can shed offensive linemen to make plays in the backfield. It is easy to see that offensive tackles are always guessing when they go up against him. The way he wins is going to translate well to the next level. Karlaftis doesn't rely on his incredible athleticism or winning the outside track with bend.
Teams will fall in love with his versatility. Karlaftis can play 4-3 defensive end and kick inside on pass rush downs and can also play 3-4 defensive end. Not to mention, he is going to test off the charts at the combine. He came in at seven on Bruce Feldman's Freak List because of his 4.69 40-yard dash over the summer, a 37-inch vert and a 10-1 broad. In the weight room, he power cleans 380 pounds and did a 505-pound front squat. These numbers are incredible for a player who is so well-rounded technically. Most of the time, a player is either athletic or technically sound, but Karlaftis is both.
All the tools are there for Karlaftis to be among the leaders in sacks every year and be an elite-run defender. There are zero questions about Karlaftis' character, and expect Karlaftis to be a captain at the next level for a very long time. He checks all the boxes to be an elite player. From what he has shown so far this season, Karlaftis won't have to wait long to hear his name called and has all the tools to be the first defensive end taken: and in a weak quarterback class, it isn't out of the question he ends up as the first overall pick.
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