Thu Aug 18 2:11am ET
By DAVE SKRETTA
AP Sports Writer
Kansas City Chiefs defensive end George Karlaftis arrives at NFL football training camp Sunday, Aug. 7, 2022, in St. Joseph, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Kansas City Chiefs defensive end George Karlaftis signs autographs at the Kansas City Chiefs' NFL football training camp Sunday, Aug. 7, 2022, in St. Joseph, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Kansas City Chiefs defensive end George Karlaftis, left, works with defensive end Frank Clark, right, during NFL football training camp Monday, Aug. 15, 2022, in St. Joseph, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Kansas City Chiefs defensive end George Karlaftis talks with teammates during NFL football training camp Monday, Aug. 15, 2022, in St. Joseph, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Kansas City Chiefs defensive end George Karlaftis watches practice during NFL football training camp Thursday, Aug. 11, 2022, in St. Joseph, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
ST. JOSEPH, Mo. (AP) The quickest way to the quarterback for a defensive end is usually the most direct route, and that may be why Chiefs rookie George Karlaftis is so adept at bulldozing his way through an unsuspecting offensive tackle and into the backfield.
Then again, perhaps it's because the route Karlaftis took to reaching the NFL was anything but direct.
The first-round pick out of Purdue grew up in Athens - not the one in Georgia, home to the Bulldogs, but the one in Greece, home to the Parthenon. His father, Matt, was an accomplished track and field athlete who had ventured to the U.S. to attend college, and while doing doctoral work at Purdue had met his eventual wife, Amy.
The two settled back in Athens, where Matt Karlaftis embarked on a career in academia, and where the family eventually grew to include four children. But the lives of all of them changed in June 2014, when their patriarch died of a sudden heart attack while on a work trip at the age of 44. Within a matter of days, Amy decided to move with her kids back to Indiana, where she settled in West Lafayette to be closer to family and her support network.
It was there that George Karlaftis, who had excelled at water polo and a myriad other sports in Greece, fell in love with the American version of football. He was in the eighth grade and, for a young man learning a new language, adapting to a new culture and trying to make new friends, the game gave him an opportunity to discover himself.
Now, a mere eight years later, the 21-year-old Karlaftis has reached the pinnacle of the sport.
''Looking back on it,'' he said, ''it's pretty crazy to think about. I feel like, more generally speaking, I've always excelled in sports to a certain extent. Football sort of came natural to me after I had a full year under my belt. I surely fell in love with it. Just looking back on it, I had a crazy, crazy ride. And just like the French say, `C'est la vie,' right? That's life.''
It has certainly been an interesting one. And in many ways, it's only beginning.
The Chiefs were better than just three teams in the NFL last season when it came to bringing down the quarterback, and they were unable to make a noteworthy splash in free agency until they signed veteran Carlos Dunlap midway into training camp. So instead, they spent one of their two first-round draft picks in an attempt to upgrade at defensive end.
Karlaftis was the fifth one off the board after a standout career at Purdue, but he fit perfectly with Kansas City.
''With a late start to football, he picked it up quick,'' Chiefs general manager Brett Veach said, ''and one thing in common in everyone that you talk to about George is approach to the game and how important it is to him.''
That's been evident through the first month of training camp. Karlaftis is often one of the first players on the field and one of the last to leave it, and not just because he's probably signed more autographs for fans than just about anyone.
Along the way, Karlaftis began spending time with veteran Frank Clark, who regularly puts in extra work after practice.
''George is dope. He's a dope rookie,'' Clark said with a smile. ''He listens, you know? And honestly, I love him. He's a favorite for me early, one of my favorite rookies ever. He wants to be good. He understands it's a different game. There's a different twist in the NFL. You have to be understanding that.
''The other day,'' Clark recalled, ''he asked about getting off the ball - I fly off the ball - and he's asking, `What are you looking at?' And I explained to him different keys. Then at the end of practice, I'm zoned out, looking at the sky, just had five plays in a row, and he came running over to me and he's like, `Bro!' Scared me. He's like, `Bro! I did it! I did what you told me to do!' I was like, `Oh, cool. Good stuff.' But just the fact that he came over so excited was cool.''
Not always does such practice success translate on game day, but Karlaftis couldn't have had a better preseason debut than last Saturday in Chicago. He had two quarterback hits along with a tackle-for-loss and a sack.
''Everyone is helping in their own way,'' said Karlaftis, who gets his first opportunity inside Arrowhead Stadium when the Chiefs play Washington in their second exhibition game Saturday. ''We're trying to have the strongest group possible. But it's just little things about the game, little veteran intricacies, that are being passed down to me.''
The depth chart is fluid in Kansas City, where defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo is known for rotating so many players that it hardly matters anyway. But at least for now, Karlaftis is taking the shortest route he can to the top - just like he does when he's trying to chase down a quarterback in the backfield.
''He's a great kid,'' Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce said. ''A lot of love for the rook. He came in and knew the playbook, he's a true student of the game. He has a lot of heart and effort. I love playing with him. He brings the young dog out of me.''
Dynasty | Travis Fulgham was claimed off waivers from the Broncos by the Green Bay Packers. Dynasty Analysis: Fulgham was a dynasty darling in 2021 when he posted a 67/539/4 line for the Eagles, but has bounced around the league in the last year or so. He's worth keeping on watch lists as he's now on a depth chart not exactly stocked with talent. Still, there's little chance of Fulgham re-emerging as a viable dynasty asset and he's best left kept on the waiver wire.
Los Angeles Rams quarterback Bryce Perkins will suit up for the second half of the preseason matchup against the Texans. John Wolford, who is starting and playing the first half, has the edge of remaining the No. 2 option on the depth chart. However, Perkins is making a case for himself to overthrow Wolford after accounting for three touchdowns during the Rams' preseason win over the Chargers on Saturday. Nevertheless, neither man possesses any fantasy value heading into the season. Yet, they should at least be considered for DFS contests on Friday night, especially with how much they'll be playing.
Los Angeles Rams quarterback John Wolford will start and play the first half of the preseason clash against Houston. The 26-year-old will get some exhibition reps in an attempt to hold down the No. 2 spot on the depth chart behind Matthew Stafford. However, with Bryce Perkins getting the nod for the second half, it appears Sean McVay is searching for his permanent backup. Nevertheless, neither of these guys have fantasy appeal in redraft formats heading into the 2022-23 campaign. Yet, both men deserve consideration for DFS lineups on Friday night, especially considering how much they'll be playing.
Cincinnati Bengals offensive tackle La'el Collins (personal) didn't practice on Wednesday. Head coach Zac Taylor didn't specify when he'd return, only mentioning he expects him to be in uniform for Week 1. The 29-year-old inked a three-year, $21 million deal this offseason after spending seven years with Dallas. While signing Collins was a priority for the Bengals, a team that struggled to keep Joe Burrow upright last season, he recently returned to practice after sitting out because of a back issue. Nevertheless, Burrow should continue to captain the offense efficiently, no matter who is protecting him this season. However, Collins' play may suffer due to his absences throughout training camp, which isn't ideal.
Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford (elbow) informed reporters he "felt good" after recently participating fully in an intrasquad scrimmage. However, the veteran couldn't answer if he'd still be dealing with the residual effects of his bout with elbow tendinitis come Week 1. Still, Stafford has proven time and time again that he's one of the toughest quarterbacks in the league. That sentiment was echoed when the 34-year-old stated he would play through any lingering soreness while adding it shouldn't impact his performance. Nevertheless, Stafford is coming off a fantastic season that resulted in a Super Bowl win over the Bengals. Although nobody knows if he'll stay on the field for the entire 2022-23 campaign due to the ailment, he should remain classified as a starting fantasy signal-caller in all formats, especially with Cooper Kupp and Allen Robinson II in his arsenal.
Baltimore Ravens center Tyler Linderbaum (foot) is expected to return to practice on Friday, according to head coach John Harbaugh. The No. 25 overall selection of the 2022 NFL Draft suffered a foot injury on August 4, although fortunately, it wasn't a Lisfranc issue, negating previous reports. Harbaugh will take it day-by-day with the rookie regarding his activity level, likely keeping him restricted to individual drills in the meantime. However, Linderbaum isn't a lock for Week 1, which isn't ideal for Lamar Jackson and company
Updating a previous report, Indianapolis Colts rookie tight end Andrew Ogletree (knee) suffered a torn ACL in training camp practice on Wednesday, according to a source. It's a tough break for Ogletree, as he'll miss his entire rookie season in 2022 after being taken in the sixth round earlier this year. The Colts still have plenty of depth at the position with Mo Alie-Cox, Kylen Granson and rookie Jelani Woods. Granson is expected to have a much bigger role in his second season, while Alie-Cox will continue to serve as a run-blocker and red-zone weapon for quarterback Matt Ryan. In this run-first offense, Alie-Cox will be nothing more than a low-end, touchdown-dependent TE2 in fantasy.
Los Angeles Chargers head coach Brandon Staley said that tight end Donald Parham Jr. (hamstring) is week-to-week. "He's week-to-week on that. Just still being patient. But, hopefully, next week, we can kind of start phasing him into the work. He's progressing, but I would say more week-to-week than day-to-day," Staley said. Parham should be ready for the start of the regular season, unless he suffers a setback when he returns to the practice field at training camp next week. The 25-year-old has 30 receptions (47 targets) for 349 yards and six touchdowns in 27 games in his first two NFL seasons, but he could have a bigger role in 2022 alongside Gerald Everett. Unless Everett suffers an injury and misses time, though, Parham will be left to the waiver wire to begin the year in standard-sized fantasy leagues.
New England Patriots wide receiver Kristian Wilkerson (head) was taken to the hospital after leaving Wednesday's joint practice. Wilkerson was leveled by Carolina Panthers safety Kenny Robinson. A hit that appeared to have knocked out Wilkerson. He is currently being evaluated for a head injury. Wilkerson is already battling for a roster spot, so missing time won't help his case. Regardless, it's unlikely that Wilkerson has any fantasy relevance this season, but hopefully he can get back on the field soon.
Arizona Cardinals tight end Trey McBride (back) has been cleared to play in the second preseason game. The second-round pick missed nearly two weeks of action due to a back issue. Luckily, he's back and hopeful ready to make an impact here soon. Although, fantasy managers shouldn't expect too much from McBride during his first season. He'll likely end up as the third tight end to begin the season. He could be worth a deep league stash and remains someone worth targeting in dynasty formats.
The Green Bay Packers have claimed wide receiver Travis Fulgham off waivers from the Denver Broncos. The former sixth-round pick wasn't able to make the first line of roster cuts. Although, he immediately landed on his feet with a new team in the Packers. This is a nice landing spot for Fulgham with the Packers needing extra bodies at wide receiver. He finished with 38 receptions, 539 receiving yards, and four touchdowns through 13 games with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2020. Fantasy managers shouldn't bother adding Fulgham, but he's a nice addition as depth for Green Bay.
Indianapolis Colts tight end Andrew Ogletree (knee) was forced to exit early during Wednesday's practice. The organization believes that Ogletree has suffered a serious knee injury. Head coach Frank Reich mentioned the team will wait and see what the doctor says, but the injury didn't look good. The organization will likely wait until further testing before releasing anymore information. Fantasy managers should stay tuned for more updates on his status.
Dynasty | Seahawks rookie running back Kenneth Walker will miss the remainder of the preseason after undergoing a "procedue" Dynasty Analysis: There was not explanation by Pete Carroll as to what the surgery was for and no guarantee that Walker would be back by week one of the regular season, though he said that was the goal. Rashaad Penny has returned from a minor injury and now looks to have the starting role all to himself though other depth chart names will still factor. The Seahawks are a leaking ship in multiple spots but there has been excitement surrounding the run-game following the team's selection of Walker. As long as the rookie returns quickly and without setback, he'll remain a highly selected rookie. He's listed as DLF's RB17.
Seattle Seahawks rookie running back Kenneth Walker III (hernia) underwent a procedure to fix a hernia -- not a "sports hernia" or core-muscle injury -- and is expected to make a full recovery. If all goes well, the plan is for him to be available in Week 1 against the Denver Broncos. Walker's hernia came to light on Tuesday, with head coach Peter Carroll saying the hope is to have the 21-year-old ready for the start of the regular season. The second-rounder's hernia doesn't appear to be a major issue, but it shouldn't be ignored by fantasy managers. Walker is expected to have a role alongside the injury-prone Rashaad Penny. He's definitely worth a handcuff for those that draft Penny, and he could also have RB3/flex appeal in 2022. If he misses any time to start the year, Travis Homer and DeeJay Dallas will be asked to step up behind Penny.
Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh announced on Wednesday that quarterback Lamar Jackson won't play in the team's second preseason game against the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday. Jackson was also held out of the preseason opener last week. The 25-year-old is determined to bounce back strong in 2022 after a disappointing end to his 2021 season in which he missed some time down the stretch with an ankle injury. Even though Jackson isn't a prototypical passer, his elite rushing ability on the ground continues to make him a top-five fantasy option at the position.
The Atlanta Falcons signed former Arizona Cardinals and San Francisco 49ers wide receiver KeeSean Johnson to an undisclosed deal on Wednesday. The Falcons can never have too much receiver depth after losing Calvin Ridley to a year-long suspension and Russell Gage in free agency in the offseason, but Johnson will merely be trying to win a spot on the roster to open the 2022 season. The 25-year-old was cut by the Niners on Monday. The former sixth-round selection by the Arizona Cardinals in 2019 spent the 2021 season with the Philadelphia Eagles, but he didn't play in a regular season game. In two years with the Cardinals, Johnson had 36 catches on 65 targets for 360 yards and one touchdown in 18 games (five starts).
The New England Patriots have been manufacturing touches for tight end Jonnu Smith, and he made some notable plays in Wednesday's joint practice with the Carolina Panthers. The Patriots are trying to get the ball in Smith's hands in several ways and there's a clear emphasis on getting him involved. Smith was making plays last summer as well, but a minor injury slowed his development. His overall production was down in his first year in New England, but he still ranked eighth in yards after the catch over expected among receivers with at least 45 targets. The 26-year-old should produce better numbers in his second year with the team in 2022, but Hunter Henry's presence, especially in the red zone, makes Smith a low-end TE2 in fantasy football.
New Orleans Saints head coach Dennis Allen had good things to say about wide receiver Michael Thomas on Wednesday. "When I watch Michael Thomas at practice, I see the Michael Thomas that I saw pre-injury. I see a big, strong, physical, receiver that makes a ton of contested catches. I saw it in these practices. I see a guy that looks pretty good," Allen said. Thomas missed all of last year with an ankle injury, but he's expected to be full-go for Week 1 and should continue to slowly rise up fantasy draft boards as long as he stays healthy in training camp. A lot has changed since the 29-year-old was the best pass-catcher in the league in 2019, but Thomas could return to being the team's No. 1 wideout in 2022, even after the additions of rookie Chris Olave and Jarvis Landry.
New Orleans Saints quarterback Jameis Winston (foot, knee) will not play in the team's second preseason game on Friday against the Green Bay Packers, according to head coach Dennis Allen. Winston is still out after spraining his foot last week, and he's also attempting to return from a torn ACL in his knee last year. The Saints aren't going to rush the 28-year-old back in meaningless games, but they'd like to get him some action in the final preseason game next week. New Orleans won't ask him to do much on offense in 2022, especially early in the year, but he has plenty of weapons through the air with Michael Thomas (ankle) looking like his pre-injury self this summer. Winston will be a midrange QB2 in his second year as the team's starter under center.
Dallas Cowboys wide receiver CeeDee Lamb (foot) isn't practicing on Wednesday against the Los Angeles Chargers due to a foot injury, but he's walking around without a protective boot. Lamb will almost certainly be held out of the team's second preseason game this week, but it remains to be seen if this is an injury that fantasy managers should be concerned about. Michael Gallup (knee) and James Washington (foot) won't be ready for the start of the regular season, so Dallas' receiving group has been thinned out considerably. While Lamb is likely to see plenty of attention from opposing defenses with Amari Cooper now in Cleveland, a big target share is guaranteed, making him a no-doubt WR1 in fantasy football.