Kansas City Chiefs rookie edge rusher George Karlaftis was faced with several questions throughout the pre-draft process. Once viewed as a top potential top-10 selection, general opinion eventually soured on Karlaftis as concerns regarding his arm length (32 inches and change) and overall athletic ability were brought to the forefront of his evaluation process.
While the talented Travon Walker catapulted himself to the top of the draft class, and Aidan Hutchison and Kayvon Thibodeaux cemented their status as elite prospects, Karlaftis somewhat faded into the background. Reports regarding Karlaftis’ actual draft stock proved to be accurate, and the Chiefs eventually drafted Karlaftis with the No. 30 overall selection in the 2022 NFL Draft. They couldn’t be happier with their choice. Early indications are that Karlaftis has hit the ground running in Kansas City, while appearing fully capable of providing the Chiefs with an immediate return on their investment.
Karlaftis now joins a winning club that contains a certain standard of excellence. The annual Super Bowl contending Chiefs will provide Karlaftis with an immediate opportunity to make an impact across their transitioning front seven and Karlaftis’ play-style has quickly endeared itself to illustrious Chiefs Head Coach Andy Reid.
“He goes 100 miles an hour,” Reid recently said. “We had to slow him down during walk-throughs. He moves around well when he’s in space. He’s got good hands, but that motor is probably the thing that jumps out at you.”
Karlaftis’ motor was routinely on display throughout his time at Purdue, too. It’s no surprise to hear he’s continued to put his best foot forward at rookie minicamp and organized team activities (OTAs). Karlaftis’ refined punch and advanced shedding techniques made him a close-quarters combat winner in college, where he recorded 4.5 sacks in 12 appearances in 2021. Offensive linemen were often ill-equipped to deal with Karlaftis’ raw power as a pass rusher and Kansas City needed an edge rusher badly this offseason. Karlaftis not only fills that need, but he’s an excellent scheme fit for Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo’s blitz-heavy defense. Despite all of the outside noise and pre-draft concerns that he would face an uphill battle to make an impact, the early impression suggests that he’s going to be a ready and willing participant all season long on a new-look Chiefs defensive line.
The Chiefs struggled to apply consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks last season. They finished the campaign with just 31.0 total sacks. Only the Detroit Lions, Philadelphia Eagles and Atlanta Falcons recorded fewer quarterback takedowns. It was a clear weakness of Kansas City’s underperforming defense and the inability to make quarterbacks uncomfortable in the pocket doomed Kansas City throughout several contests in 2021. They received a midseason boost from veteran Melvin Ingram, who applied pressure and routinely freed up his surrounding teammates to take advantage of more isolated opportunities. Ingram signed with the Miami Dolphins earlier this offseason and the Chiefs are hoping a much younger (and cheaper) Karlaftis can make a similar impact. Pairing Karlaftis with the likes of Chris Jones and Frank Clark should guarantee improvement.
The Chiefs are beginning their second phase of OTAs on Tuesday, with a total of three practices this week before ushering in Phase 3 of their offseason program. We’ll start to hear more about Karlaftis’ on-field performance as we swiftly approach training camp. If he continues to impress his coaching staff while showcasing the ability to play up to the level he did at Purdue and with the effort he seems to be putting in early at the pro level, Karlaftis should receive every opportunity to quickly become a mainstay on Kansas City’s defense.