There is nearly a consensus that the Green Bay Packers should use at least one of their two first-round draft picks on a pass-catcher after trading Davante Adams, but nobody knows what they will use their other first-round pick on. While many fans will say that they should use it to secure the offensive line, I think they should use it on another edge rusher to add to their rotation of Rashan Gary and the newly extended Preston Smith.
The Packers already lost star edge rusher Za’Darius Smith this offseason. While Gary is more than ready to take over as a starter, the rotation on the defensive line is noticeably weaker than it has been in seasons past. Though adding a defensive end might not seem like something the Packers would do right now, we should remember that they drafted Gary even after adding both Smiths in free agency.
If the Packers want to add another edge rusher, they should look at George Karlaftis from Purdue.
Karlaftis moved to the United States from Greece at the age of 13. At 6’4″ and 275 lbs., with freakish athleticism, he could be Green Bay’s Greek Freak. Karlaftis can line up almost anywhere along the defensive line and is comfortable in a two- and three-point stance. When Karlaftis is on the inside, he can beat opposing guards with a spin move or with a bull rush that collapses a pocket. He is also outstanding 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 a tough day. The main problem with his pass-rushing is his lack of bend. He sometimes takes a wider route to the quarterback, which costs him an extra second or two. That 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. However, his shorter arms and inability to keep opposing tackles at bay are valid concerns. Karlaftis can combat this with his ability to swat lineman’s hands and make it challenging for them to get a solid hand on 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. Karlaftis can also use his hands to push tackles and guards back on bullrushes.
One thing that you can’t teach at the NFL level is having a great motor. Karlaftis is tireless and will run all over to make a play. On film, you can see him hustle to get to the ball. This trait is useful in both the pass rush and when he defends the run. He is never willing to quit on the play.
Karlaftis’ ability to defend against the run and seal the edges allows him to play every single down instead of just being a pass-rush specialist. If either Smith or Gary were to miss a game, the Packers would have Karlaftis to play in their stead. However, his arm length hinders him in the run game. 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.
While everyone wants a wide receiver in the draft this year, it’s a great idea for the Packers to add another defensive end to set themselves up for a future without Smith. That way Karlaftis would be able to take a few seasons to adjust to the NFL before becoming a full-time starter.