ARIZONA CARDINALS

Arizona Cardinals take DL George Karlaftis in Kiper’s 1st NFL mock draft

Jan 20, 2022, 6:39 PM

(AP Photo/Michael Conroy)...

It wouldn’t be the offseason without NFL mock drafts.

Not even a week removed from their Wild Card exit, ESPN’s Mel Kiper has the Arizona Cardinals selecting defensive end George Karlaftis in the opening round of the analyst’s first NFL mock draft of the offseason.

In 12 games played with the Purdue Boilermakers last season, the junior lineman tallied 4.5 sacks, 10 tackles for loss, four passes defensed, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.

Karlaftis came in as the 23rd ranked college player in 2021 after posting a pass-rushing grade of 90.6, per Pro Football Focus. He was named to the First Team All-Big Ten for his efforts.

The biggest reasoning behind the addition is the durability of defensive lineman J.J. Watt, who has one year left on his two-year deal.

His injury history means that Arizona needs to think about a replacement. That’s Karlaftis, a powerful 275-pound end who might be better in a 3-4 defense. He had only 4.5 sacks in 2021, but his pressure numbers were elite, even if he didn’t always get home to the quarterback. He’s really good against the run, too.

Kiper believes Arizona’s downfall hung greatly on the absence of Watt from the starting lineup.

When Watt went down with a regular season-ending shoulder injury in a Week 7 win over the Houston Texans, the Cardinals were sitting at the top of the league at 7-0.

Arizona wouldn’t see that same success without Watt on the field, going 4-6 over the next 11 games.

And while Watt returned to action for the team’s Wild Card bout, the defensive lineman’s presence wasn’t enough in a 34-11 beatdown at the hands of the Los Angeles Rams.

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