Tomorrow marks the final day of the first regular-season under head coach Robert Saleh for the New York Jets.
If the Green & White defeat the division-rival Buffalo Bills, it will be the first victory against a team in the AFC East since December 29 of 2019, when the Jets beat Buffalo 13-6.
That would give the franchise a record of 5-12 in 2021, and it would most likely drop their position in the NFL draft — currently No. 4 overall. A loss against the Bills would mean a 4-13 campaign and a guaranteed top-five selection.
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Potential Jets Target Gaining Steam
Speaking of the draft, that’s where many fans have shifted their focus with the Jets eliminated from contention and two first-round picks on the way in round one. Joe Douglas and Saleh can go a bunch of different directions with these two picks but most agree that at least one of the two must be used to help the 32nd-ranked defense.
The problem is, the argument could be made that Gang Green needs assistance at virtually every position on this side of the football — outside of maybe nickelback.
At first, analysts were convinced the Jets needed a top cornerback prospect and some still are, but with the way Bryce Hall and Brandin Echols have developed this now feels like less of a priority in the top 10. Another option is a linebacker with C.J. Mosley aging or a safety like Kyle Hamilton. Hell, the front office could even go defensive tackle if they decide to let Folorunso Fatukasi walk in free agency.
So many options, although you can never have enough of one position in Saleh’s scheme — edge rusher.
This 4-3 relies on a dominant pass rush and after Carl Lawson was injured in training camp, the whole system crumbled. John Franklin-Myers was forced into a permanent spot on the edge, Bryce Huff was elevated into a major role, and the depth didn’t hold up as the year went on.
The draft could be the solution. Many fans have been eyeing Kayvon Thibodeaux and Aidan Hutchinson as dream targets for the Jets at No. 4 but a couple of analysts believe there’s a third option who may be the best scheme fit of all — George Karlaftis out of Purdue.
In a plan to “maximize Franklin-Myers’ talents” and rotate him back inside, Jets X-Factor analyst Michael Nania outlined why Karlaftis is his ideal replacement opposite Lawson. He wrote:
The 6-foot-4, 275-pound Karlaftis is a powerful, tough defensive end who can handle the vigors of Franklin-Myers’ role, but he also offers athletic upside at the position that Franklin-Myers does not, giving him the potential to match Franklin-Myers’ run defense in the scheme while improving upon his pass-rushing. Karlaftis had the sixth-most pressures among Power-5 edge rushers with 54 despite playing the 25th-most pass-rush snaps with 335. He also had a 75.1 run-defense grade at PFF that ranked at the 84th percentile among qualified Power-5 edge rushers. The Purdue product has shown the ability to both squeeze the pocket and bend the corner.
Kristopher Knox of Bleacher Report agreed, declaring that the Purdue product is “better-suited to power-rush from the end position than Thibodeaux,” who might actually profile as too similar to Lawson.
“As the San Francisco 49ers’ defensive coordinator in 2019, [Saleh] oversaw a pass-rushing rotation that utilized Arik Armstead, Dee Ford and rookie Nick Bosa. Saleh could have a similar rotation involving John Franklin-Myers, Lawson and Karlaftis,” Knox noted later.
If JFM is Armstead and the athletic Ford is Lawson, I guess that would make Karlaftis our Bosa.
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Scouting the Greek Native
Karlaftis was born in Athens, Greece, and he didn’t journey to America until age 13. His Greek name is actually “Yoros.”
Pro Football Network draft analyst Oliver Hodgkinson comped the edge rusher to a fellow Purdue graduate in Ryan Kerrigan, who enjoyed a quietly successful career in Washington with four Pro Bowls and 95.5 sacks in 10 seasons. He highlighted Karlaftis’ size, versatility, upper-body strength, athleticism and burst.
“The most impressive aspect of Karlaftis’ scouting report is his overall athleticism. For his size, he moves incredibly well, surprisingly so. He displays excellent burst, can change direction smoothly, and can often be found chasing down the opposition. His combination of size and speed is the stuff of nightmares for opposing quarterbacks,” detailed Hodgkinson.
Kyle Crabbs of The Draft Network concurred that Karlaftis is an “every-down 4-3 defensive end,” adding that he “might be the best power rusher in this year’s class.”
Crabbs described the Boilermaker as a prospect with room to grow. He wrote: “His development as a player has seen him complement the urgency he plays with and raw power with more nuanced counters, precision striking, and a strong sense and feel for running the arc with speed. I get the sense that Karlaftis isn’t quite the same reactive athlete as some of his contemporaries in this year’s class, but he’s become quite the technician at the position and offers an impressive nose for rushing the passer.”
The draft analyst was “most impressed with Karlaftis’ motor and close-quarters combat.” Crabbs continued: “He does not appear to play with the ideal length and separation skills as an edge defender, but he’s become quite refined as a puncher and with his shedding techniques to help enable him to win ground and get good ‘knockback’ at the point of attack.”
At pick number four, the Jets could miss out on Hutchinson and Thibodeaux anyway, but Karlaftis may end up being the better fit for their defense long-term.
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