The 2022 NFL Draft is almost upon us, and things aren’t looking great (in terms of stock) for Purdue’s dynamic duo of George Karlaftis and David Bell. While both excelled during the football season, draft season has been a bit of a struggle. Bell’s combine/pro day was an unmitigated disaster. Karlaftis had a solid combine/pro day, but teams are questioning his production at Purdue, especially in the run game.
The draft is always tough for me to wrap my brain around. It’s hard to go from a fan to making an unbiased assessment of a players pro potential (this is especially true of basketball). Even if you manage to repress your fandom, for the most part, you’re attempting to divine the future, which is a fruitless endeavor. Some of the guys I thought were going bust ended up being All-Pro’s. Some of the guys I thought were going to be All-Pro’s ended up out of the league after their first contract. To be totally fair to myself, that’s the story for the majority of NFL G.M.s as well, and they get paid significantly more for their opinions on who is going to be good at playing professional football.
Bell and Karlaftis may have to wait longer than anticipated but that doesn’t have to be a terrible thing for either of them. Neither guy is the prototype for the position. Bell is a slow(ish) receiver in a league full of speed. Karlaftis is a power rusher in a league built around speed rushers. They need to find teams that appreciate them for the things they can do, and not the things they wish (or want them) to be able to do. The right fit is out there for the Purdue stars, but those fits may come later than expected when they declared for the NFL draft last fall.
David Bell was a wildly productive college receiver with less than ideal physical testing numbers. He’s the classic “production vs physical attributes” draft prospect. He’s seen his “stock” dip during the offseason, as his physical limitations (the writer says about a man in the top 1% of athletes in the world) came to the forefront during the combine and were further reinforced during his pro day.
On one hand, he’s put up two 1000-yard seasons at Purdue in 3 years. He averaged 13.8 yards a reception as a senior. He didn’t get to 1000 yards catching check-downs and quick-outs. He got there, at least in the 2021 season, as the guy on the top of the opponents’ scouting report. The other team came out with the objective of shutting down Bell, and few were successful.
On the other hand, he ran a 4.65 40-yard-dash at the combine, after declining to play in Purdue’s bowl game to prepare for the combine, and then ran a baffling 4.74 40 at Purdue’s pro day. I assume he spent a good bit of time and his agents money working on his 40 time with professional speed trainers. It’s not a form problem for David, he’s just not super fast (again, he says about someone who is incredibly fast) and before you throw out Cooper Kupp’s 40 time, Bell didn’t blaze his way through the agility drills like Kupp. In fact, his performance in the agility drills was more disappointing for me than his performance in the 40.
The job of David Bell and his agents is to get teams to forget out the testing and look at the film where he shines as an advanced route runner capable of winning despite the other team gearing their entire defense around stopping him. Bell isn’t an “empty stats” player. He didn’t feast against lesser teams and struggle against top competition. He dominated pretty much everyone. He terrorized good Iowa and Michigan State teams (both known for their defense) to the tune of 200+ yards in each game. He put up 100 yards against Ohio State. When the lights were the brightest, Bell was at his best.
Best Case - DeAndre Hopkins
I watched Nuk’s entire body of work at Clemson, and it’s eerily similar to Bell’s body of work at Purdue. I was disappointed with how poorly Nuk performed at the NFL combine, and was similarly disappointed in Bell’s combine. Neither projected as a “high upside” receiver because of their perceived lack of speed and overall athleticism. Throw in the fact that they both played point guard for state championship basketball teams, and had the opportunity to play college basketball (Hopkins was considered a 4* by ESPN and actually played a bit for Clemson as a freshman before focusing on football), and it seems like a good comp.
Let’s play a quick game. Is this “weakness” section from an article about David Bell or Deandre Hopkins?
“(redacted) is just average when it comes speed and quickness. He sometimes has trouble when he has to compete for the ball in the air, and he can be re-routed and disrupted by press coverage. (redacted) lacks the jets and phone booth quicks to be a real threat to break long plays after the catch and he won’t take the top off of defense.”
If you guessed this was from a 2013 Bleacher Report article discussing Nuk Hopkins, you win 1 Hammer and Rails credit (not valid anywhere). Like Hopkins, Bell will need a team that features his strength in order to unlock his full potential. The Texans and Cardinals don’t ask Hopkins to be a speed guy looking to take the top off the defense and collect his stats on 3 catches. He’s a high volume receiver and is a killer against zone defense and on 3rd downs. Quarterbacks throw him the ball when he’s covered, and he still makes the play. If you need first downs and redzone touchdowns, Nuk is going to get you that more often than not. If you need 40 yards, you should probably throw it to the guy on the other side of the formation that gets paid to run fast and make 2 receptions a game. I think that’s the best case scenario for David Bell as a pro.
A team with a solid speed threat at wide receiver already on the roster is the best case scenario for Bell. If you stretch the defense with speed, Bell is going to find holes underneath and move the chains. He also needs a quarterback confident enough in his ability to get late separation to throw the ball early when he appears to be covered. A team with an established, veteran quarterback would be best for Bell.
Indianapolis would be incredible for the Indianapolis native. If Bell is available at 73, and the Colts haven’t invested in a wide receiver yet, Bell makes a ton of sense. They could also choose to gamble and hope he drops to 122, which isn’t out of the question. I’m really hoping they snag Bell at 73 and give the young man a soft landing after an awful draft process.
Green Bay would be an intriguing landing spot for Bell. They lost Davante Adams and Valdez-Scantling this offseason, and after paying Aaron Rodgers all the money, I suspect they’ll be looking for someone to get on the receiving end of his passes. Bell possess some of the same traits that made Adams a star for the Packers. If he’s on the board at 92 or 132, Green Bay would make a ton of sense if they haven’t already drafted 2 receivers (they need 2). As crazy as it sounds, Bell lasting to 132 isn’t out of the question, but I’d be surprised if he dropped that far.
Finally, Chicago thinks they have their quarterback in place with Justin Fields. I’m sure they would love to get a crack at either Wilson or Olave from Ohio State, but they don’t have a first round pick. Instead of either burner from the Buckeyes, Bell could fall into their lap at 71. Fields isn’t the best fit for someone with Bell’s skill set, but he’s got a cannon for an arm and can fit the ball into tight windows. Bell could make an immediate impact for a Bears team in desperate need of a consistent wide out.
Green Bay - (92, 132)
Chicago - (71)
Indianapolis - (73,122)
While David Bell hopes the NFL focuses on his Purdue film, George Karlaftis would prefer they focus on his physical abilities. That feels sacrilegious to type, but I’m doing my best to come at this from an unbiased perspective. If I’m an NFL G.M., I look at the 6’4”, 265 pound physical Adonis that is George Karlaftis, and then look at his 2021 stats and scratch my head. 39 tackles, 10 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks are nothing to sneeze at, but it doesn’t exactly scream 1st round pick, despite the fact that he spent most of the time eating double teams.
Compare George’s 2021 to the other top rated defensive ends in the 2022 class.
Hutchinson: 62 tackles, 16.5 TFL, 14 sacks
Thibodeaux: 49 tackles, 12 TFL, 7 sacks
Johnson II: 70 tackles, 17.5 TFL, 11.5 sacks
Ebiketie: 62 tackles, 18 TFL, 9.5 sacks
Walker: 33 tackles, 7.5 TFL, 6 sacks
Oddly enough, Georgia’s Travon Walker is the only player Karlaftis out performed (at least in terms of stats) and there is smoke billowing out of Jacksonville that he will be the overall #1 pick in the draft despite having extremely pedestrian numbers throughout his career. Walker is an athletic freak with all the measurables. While Karlaftis is also a freak, he’s not a “first pick of the draft even though he didn’t produce in college” type of freak. George is also getting dinged for having shorter than average arms for an NFL defensive end. I’m disappointed he didn’t work on arm length in the run up to the combine.
It’s hard not to wonder if Karlaftis didn’t miscalculate the depth of this defensive end class. He’s a fringe 1st round pick at the moment, but could have put together a senior season like Hutchinson and removed all doubt. I think I’m in the minority, but I understood why Bell left. He had nothing to prove, in terms of production, at the college football level, even though he’s going to go significantly below where many projected him at the beginning of the season, another year at Purdue wouldn’t change that. Karlaftis, on the other hand, didn’t max out his production potential at Purdue. Certainly can’t blame him for going out and getting paid, but things haven’t broken the way Karlaftis and company thought before he declared for the draft.
Best Case - 2020/2021 Trey Hendrickson
Karlaftis has the same build (6’4”, 270ish with short arms) and the same high motor, power based playing style as Hendrickson. After being selected by the Saints in the 3rd round of the 2017 draft, it took Trey a few seasons to get rolling in New Orleans, but once he did, he’s become a menace for opposing quarterbacks. He rang up 13.5 sacks and 12 tackles for loss in 2020 for the Saints, and then cashed in on his big season and signed a lucrative free agent deal with the Bengals. Getting paid didn’t slow Hendrickson down. He posted 14 sacks and 12 tackles for loss last season for the Bengals, despite being their only true pass rush threat, and made his first Pro Bowl.
Karlaftis, like Hendrickson, relies mostly on his tenacity and ability to push offensive tackles backwards to get the job done. Like George, Hendrickson is a defensive end, and not an edge rusher/outside linebacker. He puts his hand in the dirt, gets up field, gets into the tackle, and looks for the quarterback. He’s not a prolific tackler in the run game, but that’s not his job. His job is to harass the quarterback.
I compared him with Hendrickson in the above section, and he wouldn’t be a terrible choice to pair with Hendrickson. It might be a little redundant in terms of playing style, but Cincinnati is in desperate need of another pass rusher. George could be the last pass rusher standing out of the currently agreed up “elite” group.
Kansas City needs someone to get after the quarterback, and George can get after the quarterback. They tried defensive tackle Chris Jones at defensive end last season, and it turns out he’s an excellent defensive tackle. They traded for Frank Clark two seasons ago, but he’s yet to sniff the production he enjoyed in Seattle. If Karlaftis makes it to this point in the draft, the Chiefs are getting a plug and play defensive starter at the end of the first round. That’s how you keep a run, like they are on, going (having Maholmes doesn’t hurt either).
I would be surprised if Karlaftis falls to the end of the first round, or, (gasp) out of the first round completely, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility. The buzz around George at the moment (for what it’s worth, which is probably nothing) is that he is going to fall out of the first round. If that happens, look for a team to either move up and snag him at the top of the second round, or for Detroit to put on a ski mask, walk to the podium, and steal him at 34.
Cincinnati - (31)
Kansas City - (29, 30)
Detroit - (32, 34)
I’ve provided you an entire non-gambling article. If that’s what you came for, please stop reading now. If you continue reading, don’t complain in the comments. If you do enjoy gambling, please click on DRAFT KINGS SPORTSBOOK and get to work.
If you’re into gambling, and live in a state where you can partake, please don’t wager any money based solely on my advice. If I were an expert sports gambler, I wouldn’t be writing these articles. Still, there are a few interesting bets available that involve Purdue players.
Total Big10 Players Drafted in the First Round
Big10 First Round Locks
Big10 First Round Possibilities
These aren’t sexy odds, but they do hinge on a Purdue player. I’m taking the over on this one. I think you get to 7 with 4 locks plus Ebiketie, Karlaftis, and Dotson. You don’t need a team to gamble on Ojabo and his inured Achilles or on a team drafting a center or an outside linebacker in the first round. There is plenty of breathing room for the over, in my opinion, which again, I repeat, is worth no more or less than your opinion, so please, please, please don’t ever gamble anything based on my advice.
Exact Position of First Drafted Player
Kansas City: Edge
I like Karlaftis to Kansas City, it just depends on which pick they use to select him. Another possibility is Green Bay, but I don’t like George as a 3-4 end/outside linebacker
Defensive Rookie of the Year
This isn’t outside the realm of possibility if he ends up at Kansas City. He’ll have ample opportunity to win the starting job, and would get to play next to Chris Jones and on the opposite side of Frank Clark. There is some meat on this bone.
Offensive Rookie of the Year
Odds: + 10,000
This is the longest of long shots and would require Bell to somehow end up as the primary target in a good offense. Maaaybe Green Bay could get him there, but I get the feeling Aaron wouldn’t be thrilled if Bell ends up being his primary receiver. Chicago might be his best opportunity, if you believe in Justin Fields as an NFL quarterback.
Final player of the draft to be an offensive player or kicker
Final player of the draft to be a defensive player or punter
This is a coin flip sort of bet, but if you want to talk about Purdue players, Zander Horvath is the type of player I could see a team trying to get Zander as a project in the draft instead of having to fight with other teams to snag him as an undrafted free agent.
On defense, Demarcus Mitchell is another guy that I could see a team wanting to get into camp.