In the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft, the Kansas City Chiefs selected Purdue defensive end George Karlaftis. He was a valuable contributor right away, becoming a starting defensive end who also functioned as a quality secondary pass rusher. Karlaftis finished his first season with six sacks — more than any Kansas City rookie since Tamba Hali (8.0 in 2006), Jared Allen (9.0 in 2004) and Derrick Thomas (10.0 in 1989). For a late first-round pick, he was a home run for the Chiefs.
But I wanted to compare Karlaftis’s rookie season to those of other NFL defensive ends. How did his productivity measure up to other rookies in recent history?
Using data from Pro Football Focus, I have three statistical takeaways from Karlaftis’ rookie season.
Compared to 2022 rookies
Measured against the rest of 2022’s rookie defensive ends, Karlaftis was wildly productive, finishing second in pressures (48) and third in sacks (6). Karlaftis was more productive than defensive ends Travon Walker of the Jacksonville Jaguars or Kayvon Thibodeaux of the New York Giants — both of whom were top-10 picks.
Karlaftis was also efficient — finishing fourth (10.4%) among all rookies in pressure rate — but on a significantly larger sample size than most rookies. Karlaftis played 462 pass-rushing snaps in 2022, which was second to only Detroit Lions defensive end Aidan Hutchinson, who was taken with 2022’s second overall pick.
Here I have plotted total pressures against pressure rate for all of 2022’s rookies.
Crossing 40 pressures
One concern about Karlaftis was whether his ceiling was high enough to justify being selected with a first-round pick. But when compared to other recent rookie classes, his numbers — especially in total pressures — are quite impressive.
While collecting data for rookie defensive ends, something that stood out was players getting more than 40 pressures in their rookie seasons. Since 2011, just 26 defensive ends have done it.
Of these 26, 14 would go on to make at least one Pro Bowl. 19 have been eligible for second contracts — and among those, 12 have signed deals worth more than $10 million annually. It’s true that some defensive ends take longer to develop than others — but if a rookie can eclipse 40 pressures, they’re likely to have long-term NFL success. In 2022, Karlaftis had 48.
Pass Rush Win Percentage
Karlaftis wasn’t just productive in terms of total pressures, but also in pass rush “win” percentage. In his rookie year, he had a win rate of 13.2% , which is an 80th-percentile figure for rookies since 2011. He did this on a high volume of reps, too. Karlaftis’ 462 pass-rushing snaps was the ninth-most among rookies since 2011. Earning these snaps is a huge step in the growth of an edge rusher. Karlaftis was instantly entrusted with an important pass-rushing role — and he thrived in it.
This is made clear when we compare rookie pass-rushing snaps to win percentage.
If we look at what PFF calls “true pass sets” (which ignores snaps featuring a run-pass option, play action or a screen), Karlaftis turned in another strong performance. He registered a win rate of 17.4%, which is in the 75th percentile among rookies since 2011. He was on the field for 208 true pass-rushing reps — the 13th-highest in that group.
Regardless of the pass-rushing situation, Karlaftis was an extremely productive rookie. He wasn’t simply getting pressure later in reps. He was also creating pressure by consistently beating offensive tackles. If Karlaftis can learn to finish some of his pass-rushing moves, he’s going to be one of the NFL’s more productive edge rushers.
The bottom line
No matter what statistic we examine, Karlaftis had a very impressive rookie season. By itself, a first-year getting on the field as much as he did is eye-opening. But when you factor in how productive and efficient he was, we can conclude his first season was a huge success.
Karlaftis still displays some athletic limitations — particularly when trying to win around the corner — that limit his NFL ceiling. While he has maximized many of his strengths as a player, we will just have to see how much more he can grow.
Still, every statistical indicator suggests that at the end of the first round, Kansas City found a high-quality pass rusher. Even if Karlaftis doesn’t become an All-Pro player, he’s going to continue to be a high-quality pass rusher — something the Chiefs haven’t been able to find for quite a long time.