Rondale Moore was Purdue’s best chance to have a player taken in the first round in some time, but he’ll have to wait until tonight to here his name called. While I think Moore is a first round talent, he doesn’t have a first round body (in terms of size). When you pair that with a questionable injury history, and limited film, you get a second round pick. The last Boilermaker drafted in the first round was Ryan Kerrigan, who was selected 16th by the Washington Redskins in 2011. That’s a long drought, and indicative of Purdue’s struggles over the last decade.
Looking into my crystal ball (which may or may not be a gin and tonic in a rocks glass), I see Purdue’s streak of first round futility ending in 2022, possibly twice, but I’ll get to the second candidate a little later.
George looked like an NFL player the moment he stepped on campus. At 6’4”, 275, he’s built like a Greek God (which isn’t a stretch considering his last name), and is a classic long levered pass rusher. He can beat an offensive tackle with speed around the corner, or bury him in the pocket with a bull rush. He’s the total package, and thus far, the only thing that’s slowed him down is a global pandemic.
What does a first round Karlafits looks like?
As you know, I talk way too much about them on a Purdue blog, but you’re going to have to suffer through another Clemson comparison in this article. I think a great comp for George is former Clemson Tiger Clelin Ferrell.
I honestly looked for other recent, non-Clemson, comps, but this one it too good to pass up. They are close to the same size, and both are hand in the dirt defensive ends, as opposed to the more specialized “edge rusher/outside linebacker” position. Much like Clelin, George offers versatility in the NFL, not because he can bounce outside and play linebacker, but because he can slide inside and play 3-tech defensive tackle in certain situations.
Ferrell was drafted 4th overall by Oakland in the 2019 draft, and while I don’t think Karlaftis will go that high (and Clelin shouldn’t have either), I do think he’ll be gone within the first 20 picks.
For Karlaftis to land in the first round, he most likely needs a season comparable to Ferrell’s 2018 campaign.
Clelin Ferrell 2018
Tackles for Loss: 20
Forced Fumbles: 3
2018 ACC Defensive Player of the Year
2018 Consensus All-American
2018 Ted Hendricks Award
George Karlaftis 2022
In terms of tackles, George is well on his way. He put up 54 tackles as a true freshman in 2019 and did it in 3 fewer games than Ferrell (to be fair to Cle, he shared the defensive line with 3 other NFL guys, and sat out the 2nd half of a good many games that Clemson was dominating). He also put up 17 tackles for loss, which is 3 off a consensus All-American’s total as a senior in 2018.
Sacks will always be the question with George, and if he wants to go in the top 10, he’ll need to put up double digit in 2022. If there is a knock on Karlaftis, it’s his ability to finish sacks. Too often as a freshman, he had a quarterback in his sights, but somehow managed to slide off, fly over, or straight up whiff. He still ended the season with 7.5 sacks, but could have easily put up 10+ sacks if he closed out a few gimmies. I’d rather have to teach a guy how to finish sacks than how to get to the quarterback any day. There is a big difference between sacking high school quarterbacks and bringing down Big10 quarterbacks. I’m willing to chalk up his occasional miss in 2019 to inexperience.
In terms of accolades, Purdue needs to win a few football games. You don’t see too many 1st Team All-Americans coming from a 6-6 team. First Team All-Big10 is a must, but considering he was Second Team All-Big10 as a true freshman, it’s the expectation in 2022. The Hendicks award is similar to being named a First-Team All-American. It’s hard to win individually on a team that doesn’t win a bunch of games. He may need a little help from his teammates to pull in the big hardware, but awards are a bonus, not a requirement.
How Could It Go Wrong
Injuries: The main thing that could derail the Karlaftis train into the first round is injury. Lack of tape hurt Rondale this year, and a theoretical injury early next season would necessitate a return to college football in 2023 after George missed most of 2020.
Doesn’t Want to Leave Purdue: Ferrell shocked the college football world by returning to school with the rest of Clemson’s “Power Ranger” defensive line to chase a National Championship. I’m not sure that’s in Purdue’s immediate future, but I could see a scenario where Purdue surprises in 2021, and Karlaftis decides to come back to see if the Boilermakers can make the Big10 Championship game in Indianapolis (highly doubtful, but so was Ferrell returning). Another, and more likely scenario (but still improbable) is George hanging out another year in order to have the opportunity to play with his brother.
Poor Performance: Out of the three potential pitfalls, I this one is the least likely and I would be shocked if George decided to return to Purdue in order chase a Big10 Championship. His playing style is physical and effort driven. When guys with his skill set struggle, it’s usually a question of effort, and that won’t ever be a problem with George. I have a hard time envisioning him not dominating next season. The only way this could happen is if he’s super rusty after missing last season and it takes him 4 or 5 games to get his legs back under him, causing his overall stats to drop.
Part of building a winning college program is bringing in elite players, developing them, and putting them in the first round of the NFL draft. Karlaftis came into Purdue with first round expectations, and turning those expectations into reality would be a nice talking point for the coaching staff moving forward.
It’s going to take an exceptional 2022 for it to happen, and I’m expecting an exceptional 2022 for George.