Vikings

The Vikings Can Draft Their Own Greek Freak

Photo Credit: Kirby Lee (USA TODAY Sports)

The Minnesota Vikings retained Danielle Hunter and added Za’Darius Smith this past offseason, but there is no guarantee that either player will stay healthy. Hunter was only able to play seven games in the past two seasons with both a torn pec and a herniated disk, and Smith missed all but one game this past season with a back injury. Hunter and Smith may be nearly unstoppable on the field together, but their availability is a concern.

Though D.J. Wonnum, Kenny Willekes, and the other pass rushers have seen a good amount of playing time these past two seasons, they have yet to show the ability to be starters in the NFL and take over a majority of snaps when Smith or Hunter may have to miss time.

Though the consensus is that the Vikings will draft a cornerback, they could also look to add an elite pass-rushing talent who can platoon Smith and Hunter while learning from them. In that case, Purdue’s George Karlaftis should still be on Minnesota’s radar.

Karlaftis moved to the United States from Greece at the age of 13. At 6’4″, 275 lbs., with freakish athleticism, he could be the NFL’s version of the Greek Freak. Karlaftis can line up almost anywhere along the defensive line and is comfortable in a two- and three-point stance. When he is on the inside, he can beat the opposing guards with a spin move or a bull rush that collapses a pocket. He is also excellent on the outside when he can use his hands to push away opposing tackles and make his way to the quarterback.

Karlaftis has an explosive first step that allows him to gain speed on his rushes and get past opposing tackles. He isn’t as fast as someone like David Ojabo, but he still possesses more-than-adequate speed and has the potential to give a slow-footed offensive lineman trouble.

The main problem with his speed is that he lacks bend and sometimes takes a wider route to the quarterback, which costs him an extra second or two. His lack of bend may have been a problem for him at the college level, but he should be able to overcome this with some proper NFL coaching.

Karlaftis’ ability to win with his hands sets him apart, but his shorter arms and his inability to keep opposing tackles at bay are detrimental. He can combat this with his ability to swat linemen’s hands and make it challenging for them to get a solid hand to his frame. His ability to win with his hands forced opposing teams to double-team him more often than not, and on the rare occasion he found himself one-on-one with a tight end or running back, they proved no match. He can also use his hands to push tackles and guards back on bullrushes.

Having a great motor cannot be taught in the NFL, and Karlaftis is tireless when on the field. He will run all over the place to make a play when needed. Karlaftis never has a moment where he shuts off and is passive on the field. You can see him hustle to get to the ball on film, a trait that is useful in both the pass rush and when he defends the run. He is never willing to quit on the play.

Karlaftis’ motor is one of his main assets when he defends against the run. He can set the edge, something that new defensive coordinator Ed Donatell emphasized, and bring down opposing ball carriers when they try to bounce to the outside.

But his arm length hinders him in the run game somewhat. He can sometimes be brushed aside by ball carriers when he tries to lunge and make tackles. If he wants to be more effective in the run game, he will have to get much closer to the ball carriers and bring them down.

The idea of drafting another edge rusher instead of adding a corner at pick No. 12 might seem like it is ignoring the most significant need on the defense. But with the way that injuries have derailed Minnesota’s pass rush these past two seasons, it might be in their best interest to add a high-level backup who could one day take over for both Smith and Hunter.

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Photo Credit: Kirby Lee (USA TODAY Sports)

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