Career Recap: In 2019, Karlaftis was one of the best defensive ends in the Big Ten and among the best freshman players in the nation, regardless of position. He was all over the field for the Boilermakers that season, totaling 54 tackles, 17 tackle for a loss, 7.5 sacks, one forced fumble, one interception and recovered two fumbles. Karlaftis only played in three games during 2020 because of injury and COVID-19. Over those three contests, he notched two sacks and four tackles.
2021 Season Outlook: Karlaftis has a quality junior schedule ahead, including Notre Dame and Wisconsin, two teams that typically field good offensive lines. Perhaps the best offensive tackles will he will face are Illinois' Vederian Lowe and Ohio State's Thayer Munford.
Skill-Set Summary: Karlaftis' presence immediately jumps out from Purdue tape. He is always around the ball, displaying an excellent motor and providing relentless effort. Karlaftis gives a second push while pass rushing, flows to the ball in the ground game, and will hustle downfield to get in on tackles in the secondary after completions. Karlaftis has the look of a pure football player.
In the pass rush, Karlaftis shows some natural ability to put heat on the quarterback. He utilizes active hands and his decent functional strength to do a nice job of shedding blocks to get free to the quarterback. Karlaftis possesses an impressive arm-over move that he uses to disengage offensive tackles, and when Karlaftis gets loose, he has a burst to close. His active hands will sync up with his feet, and that makes it difficult for tackles to sustain blocks against him. To help him get the better of pro offensive tackles, Karlaftis should continue to add to and refine his pass-rushing moves.
As a run defender, Karlaftis is solid at the point of attack. He fights hard and is generally reliable at holding his gap. For the NFL, it would help him to add strength and fill out his frame. Bigger offensive tackles could make it tough for him to handle downhill runs coming straight at him. Karlaftis is a young player, so he has plenty of time to add more power as he develops physically.
Karlaftis could fit in the NFL as a base defensive end in a 4-3 or as a standup outside linebacker in a 3-4.
2022 NFL Draft Expectations: If Karlaftis can stay healthy and return to his 2019 form, he could be an early-round pick in the 2022 or 2023 NFL Draft.