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2022 Cowboys scouting report: Purdue EDGE George Karlaftis

You either love him or hate him, but George Karlaftis could become a Cowboy.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 23 Wisconsin at Purdue Photo by Joe Robbins/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Our latest in scouting reports for the Dallas Cowboys 2022 Draft. Today we look at EDGE George Karlaftis out of Purdue.

Name: George Karlaftis
Position: EDGE
Height: 6’4”
Weight: 266 pounds

George Karlaftis Career Stats, courtesy of Pro Football Reference

Combine Results: 21 bench press reps, 38” vertical jump, 121” broad jump, 4.36 short shuttle

It wasn’t that long ago that Purdue’s George Karlaftis was being discussed in the same breath as Michigan’s Aidan Hutchinson and Oregon’s Kayvon Thibodeaux. That’s changed pretty drastically by now, with Karlaftis frequently being mocked as a late first-round pick these days, with some even predicting he could fall all the way to the second round.

Depending on who you talk to, this is either a crazy notion or an accurate reflection of Karlaftis as a prospect. Those who like him really think he’ll be a star, while those who don’t would caution strongly against devoting serious draft capital to him. In breaking down his tape, the reality on Karlaftis seems to be somewhere in the middle.

Karlaftis didn’t start playing football until the eighth grade when his family moved to the United States from Greece. Karlaftis committed to Purdue as a 4-star recruit and, after enrolling a semester early, become a starter as a true freshman. That was easily his most productive year; Karlaftis’ 2020 season was cut short due to injuries and COVID-19, while his 2021 season consisted of facing many double teams as Purdue’s top edge rusher. That’s led to the concern that Karlaftis is a one-hit wonder or too raw to be a first-rounder.

Burst: For how big he is, Karlaftis has a really good first step. He explodes off the line of scrimmage and combines that burst with his mass to convert speed to power very well. At the combine, Karlaftis posted some of the very best vertical and broad jump measurements among his position group, which backed up the explosion he shows on film.

Footwork: Karlaftis has some very precise feet, and it’s helped him out in so many ways when it comes to his rush plan. We often talk about “bendy” edge rushers who can turn a corner on a tackle’s outside hip; while I wouldn’t describe Karlaftis as overly bendy, he’s able to win in similar ways with his footwork.

Hand Technique: Karlaftis doesn’t have very much length for the position, but he makes up for it with great hand technique. At times, he looks like a boxer with how much power he displays with his hands, often able to stun tackles with his punch. The occasions where a tight end or running back drew the task of trying to block him are near comical, as Karlaftis easily overmatched them just with his power at the point of attack.

Pass Rush Moves: Karlaftis’ pass rush moves present an intriguing issue in his profile. In three years at Purdue, Karlaftis probably used every pass rush move in the book at least several times and had success with each one. However, Karlaftis is pretty much a textbook power rusher, and his bull rush is especially effective. Perhaps Karlaftis would have had more college production if he relied more on it, but it seems weird to ding him for having so much versatility here.

Lateral Agility: This is where the cracks start to show in Karlaftis’ game. He doesn’t possess good lateral agility, although he is right around average in this regard. When Karlaftis has to move laterally - whether it be on misdirection or screen plays or outside zone runs - he looks stiff and occasionally clumsy. Karlaftis’ middle-of-the-pack showing in the short shuttle at the combine backs this up.

Athleticism: Karlaftis is not a bad athlete, but he’s not an elite one either. After passing on the 40-yard dash at the combine, he ran an unofficial 4.77 at his pro day, which would have placed him 14th out of 20 EDGE prospects at the combine. For comparison’s sake, current Cowboys edge players DeMarcus Lawrence (4.80) and Dorance Armstrong (4.87) both had slower times than Karlaftis; of course, neither of those two were first-round picks. Karlaftis has average athleticism for his position, but it’s become a major weakness in a year where the other top edge players have some elite level athleticism.

Run Defense: Karlaftis is just not a great run defender right now. Most of his plus plays in run support come when the play runs into his rush plan. Karlaftis has the size and power to become a good edge setter, but right now he’s too stiff and lacks the lateral agility to do so. Early on in his NFL career, Karlaftis will be a situational edge rusher as opposed to an every down player.

Processing: As mentioned above, Karlaftis has a very, very deep toolbag of pass rush moves. That is a testament to his football IQ. You can also see how smart he is in the way he sets up tackles in his pass rush plan, combining his various moves with precise footwork to gain an edge. You’d like to see Karlaftis apply himself in run defense a bit more, though, as it could make up for his other struggles in that aspect.

Intangibles: Size will be the biggest question mark for Karlaftis here. At 6’4” he’s right around your average height, and he weighed in at 266 pounds at the combine after playing at a listed weight of 275 pounds at Purdue, both of which are good numbers. But Karlaftis’ arms measured in at 32 5/8” which is well below average. NFL teams tend to value length, bend, and athleticism above all else in edge rushers, which is why the hype around Karlaftis has fizzled somewhat in recent months.

George Karlaftis has a very straightforward NFL projection: he’s a situational power rusher in a 4-3 defense who’s very technically refined. In a vacuum, that’s a pretty solid get for any team. Karlaftis is being hurt by his counterparts in this draft; Hutchinson, Thibodeaux, Georgia’s Travon Walker, and Florida State’s Jermaine Johnson are all superior athletes with more impressive tape. But that doesn’t mean Karlaftis doesn’t offer something too. More over, his relatively recent introduction to football suggests he has plenty of room to grow.

The issue for the Cowboys when it comes to Karlaftis is that he doesn’t have an obvious fit right away. Dallas needs to replace Randy Gregory, but Karlaftis’ profile is ill-equipped to replicate the frenetic athleticism Gregory had. Karlaftis fits more into the mold of DeMarcus Lawrence, albeit a much weaker run defender. If Dallas were to select Karlaftis, he’d make the most sense as a rotational edge rusher the team could then groom to outright replace Lawrence in a few years. The question then becomes if that’s what the Cowboys should be spending a first-round pick on, which is where they’d likely need to take Karlaftis.

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