One of the most exciting things about the Kansas City Chiefs’ selection of Purdue defensive lineman George Karlaftis is how well he played in college after so little football experience. He only started playing in high school — but during his first year on campus as a true college freshman, he erupted with 17 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks, earning second-team All-Big 10 honors.
This hot start was noticed by many — including opposing offenses. For the next two seasons, Karlaftis was rarely forgotten in opponent’s game plans. He was frequently double-teamed — and Purdue didn’t have enough talent on the defensive line to force offenses to divert attention from Karlaftis.
“I’m not going to say it was frustrating,” Karlaftis acknowledged in his press conference during rookie minicamp on Saturday. “[It was] more annoying than anything — just getting doubled all the time. It’ll be a nice change on the field to maybe not see that attention.”
The first-round pick is joining a group that can help his problem. An NFL offense is very rarely going to have just one man block defensive tackle Chris Jones. Savvy veterans like Frank Clark (and if he returns this season, Melvin Ingram) will face blocks from tight ends or running backs before Karlaftis will.
It all points to more single-block opportunities for Karlaftis — and that’s the dream for any defender in the trenches.
“When you’re a defensive lineman, you want to get one-on-ones,” Karlaftis emphasized. “Whether that’s me or whoever. So you want to get guys that are playing next to you that are really, really good players. Obviously, they’re great players — and that just means more success for me and the whole unit.”
On a typical passing play, there are four pass-rushers going against five offensive linemen — so it’s likely that one player will be double-teamed. Whoever gets that attention is obviously the rusher who has the most respect from the opposing coaching staff — and that doesn’t go over Karlaftis’ head.
“Absolutely,” he said. “That’s what it means. But at the same time, you want to get after the quarterback. If you get doubled, then people [who] are getting single-blocked need to win and capitalize off of that.”
No matter how hard you try, having two blockers on you is hard to overcome. So when it happens, Karlaftis’ signature trait — a high motor through the echo of the whistle — is neutralized. But when someone who truly plays with effort is single-blocked, that relentlessness can win — even if the blocker has a talent advantage.
And Karlaftis takes pride in his motor.
“It’s how I like to play the game,” he declared. “That comes from training, the desire to win, and getting after the quarterback to help the team win.”
As he prepares for his NFL career, Karlaftis said he has studied many of the league’s defensive ends.
“I like to watch film a lot,” he revealed. “I’ve watched just about everyone in the league and in college... I like to watch guys that compare to me athletically. There are also guys that I watch that are in a whole different spectrum athletically that do good stuff too.”
Karlaftis said he’s learned a lot from watching many of the league’s top pass rushers.
“I take bits and pieces of everyone,” Karlaftis began. “I watch Khalil Mack. I watch Ryan Kerrigan. I’ve watched the Bosa brothers. I’ve watched just about everyone in the league — and have gotten a little bit better watching each one of them.”
Combining high levels of effort on the field and in the film room, Karlaftis comes off as a first-round pick ready to make immediate contributions — even if it doesn’t fill the box score.
He is ready to complement the talent that exists at the top of the Chiefs’ depth chart in 2022 — a welcome change from having every Big 10 offensive line put a huge target on his chest.