KC Chiefs film room: George Karlaftis is good (and could be great)

Apr 28, 2022; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Purdue defensive end George Karlaftis after being selected as the thirtieth overall pick to the Kansas City Chiefs during the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft at the NFL Draft Theater. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 28, 2022; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Purdue defensive end George Karlaftis after being selected as the thirtieth overall pick to the Kansas City Chiefs during the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft at the NFL Draft Theater. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports /

The Kansas City Chiefs needed to address the pass-rush following the 2021 season and did so via the 2022 NFL Draft. How can defensive end George Karlaftis elevate the Chiefs’ defense?

Kansas City Chiefs general manager Brett Veach does not like entering the draft with glaring holes. However, he broke that mold ahead of the 2022 NFL Draft.

The Chiefs had an abysmal pass-rush in the 2021 season, despite big investments in the unit. Defensive end Frank Clark has rarely lived up to his contract, and defensive tackle Chris Jones cannot do it all on his own. The Chiefs trotted out a patchwork defensive line in 2021 and it showed.

Thus, the Chiefs had an obvious need on the defensive line this offseason. Kansas City missed out on the first wave of free agency signings, leaving the draft for solutions. Veach and company used the 30th overall selection on a step forward in defensive end George Karlaftis. The Purdue alum was once a top-10 pick but suffered a post-Combine tumble after some glaring question marks. Nevertheless, his potential intrigued Kansas City enough.

Karlaftis is far from a perfect player, but most collegiate players are the same. What he has are traits and tools that many other prospects do not. With the proper coaching, Karlaftis has great potential in the NFL. For now, what does he bring to the team and what are those special tools that set him apart?

First impression

The Chiefs certainly prioritized competitive prospects in the offseason, and Karlaftis is the most competitive amongst this rookie group. His relentless approach to each snap is very noticeable, no matter the play type. Sometimes, that high motor is the only reason why Karlaftis impacts a play. That is both a good and a bad thing, as Karlaftis’ perseverance can save him from otherwise bad positioning, such as attacking the wrong shoulder on a blocker. It is a good trait that hides occasional bad decisions.

Karlaftis’ first step is critical, as it overwhelms many blockers off the snap. For bigger blockers, this gives Karlaftis the advantage by putting the blocker on their heels. Karlaftis will follow this first step with a powerful first punch. He will easily manipulate collegiate blockers with his hands alone. His reps against NFL blockers will be interesting, but Karlaftis had success against fellow NFL prospects. But, Karlaftis has a rare blend of strength and speed. That will help ease his transition to the NFL.

Karlaftis is pretty good about keeping his eyes in the backfield, but this really hurts him in the power run game. Karlaftis will get caught up behind other defenders or blockers, rather than shedding his block into a gap. When he does make the right call though, his block shedding is very quick. He avoids cut blocks exceptionally well, having solid footwork to continue his pursuit unimpeded.

Watching more of his pass-rush snaps, Karlaftis has a methodical approach against blockers. Early in games, he will rely on his arm extension and the bull rush. Later in games though, he will employ more secondary moves, especially an impressive push-pull technique. His wide angles are concerning at times, but most of the time Karlaftis will reach the top of the pocket and work back down.

Overall, Karlaftis is a mid-floor, high-ceiling prospect. The Chiefs were lucky he fell so late in the first round, with his game speed and strength. His NFL Combine measurements may not show it, but Karlaftis performs when it counts.


Karlaftis does not use leverage much. While his methodical approach may be intentional, it could also show a lack of confidence in his other moves. Karlaftis struggles to get past blockers who hold up against his bull rush and push-pull. Some more finesse moves would help diversify Karlaftis’ pass-rush repertoire.

Looking back at his film, Karlaftis really struggles with arm tackles. Good ball carriers usually power right past them, whether in the backfield or at the line of scrimmage. Karlaftis lost several tackles for loss due to improper tackling technique. This is something easily amendable though, especially considering Karlaftis has only two full seasons under his belt (and that he just turned 21 years old in April).

Karlaftis can be susceptible to read options as well. He will pursue the running back, more often than not. While running quarterbacks are more common at the collegiate level, a missed read will certainly hurt a defense in the NFL. Imagine Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen ripping off a 20+-yard gain, simply because Karlaftis overcommitted. It is something that needs to be cleaned up, but should not impact Karlaftis’ long-term outlook.

Final word

Karlaftis is a good step towards fixing the pass-rush, but he is not the last step the Chiefs need to make for 2022. Will Karlaftis have a stat-stuffing season? Probably not, as rookie defensive ends rarely dominate right away. However, Karlaftis will impact plays in other ways. He will pressure the quarterbacks, he will cut off a running lane, and he will do the dirty work.

All that the Chiefs and their fans should expect from Karlaftis is consistent growth throughout the season. Those are reasonable expectations. Any stats or accolades are just a cherry on top.

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