Think fast: Can you remember the last Missouri football player who didn’t play the defensive line to be selected in the first round?
It’s been a minute.
He just won a Super Bowl.
... It was Blaine Gabbert. Yeah, I feel old, too.
Nick Bolton could very well add his name to that list if he goes within the first 32 picks of this year’s NFL Draft. According to this consensus big board, which is based on 312 first round mock drafts, the expectation is for Bolton to be selected in the first round. The most common landing spot is the 28th overall pick to the New Orleans Saints.
From Dane Brugler of The Athletic: A hammer in search of a nail, Bolton is a forceful downhill defender with outstanding play speed and striking skills to put ball carriers on the ground before they can reach the line of scrimmage. His lack of size and length will show up, especially in coverage, but his fiery play personality is something that will endear him to NFL coaches.
Bolton is the headliner, but he’s certainly not the only former Tiger expected to be selected in this year’s draft.
Larry Rountree, Tyree Gillespie, Joshuah Bledsoe and Larry Borom should each hear their name at some point in this year’s draft, as well.
Running Back Larry Rountree - Round 4-6:
Rountree is projected to hear his name at some point on day three. Running backs simply aren’t valued the way they once were, and the players who are valued in the first three rounds tend to add more in the passing game than Rountree.
From Dane Brugler of The Athletic: “An instinctive runner, Rountree stays controlled with his lower body and runs with dependable vision and tempo to chip away at the defense. Though he is a workhorse who takes a beating and keeps grinding, he doesn’t make a ton of plays after initial contact, lacking the balance or explosive gear to be a consistent tackle-breaker. Overall, Rountree might not have any special traits, but he is reliable and the strengths of his game (vision, footwork, toughness) translate well to any scheme, projecting as a quality role player if he proves to be reliable in third-down situations.”
Rountree isn’t going to be a “flashy” runner who pops off the page for media scouts, but I have a feeling NFL coaches are going to fall in love with his competitiveness, his consistency and his willingness to gain the “tough yards.”
Safety Tyree Gillespie - Round 4-6:
Gillespie’s game against Alabama is a coaching clinic for how to play the safety position. His issue is his lack of ball production. He finished his career with a dozen pass breakups, but zero interceptions. The NFL wants its deep safeties to have ball hawking abilities. Can Gillespie bring that? That’s the question.
From Kyle Crabbs of The Draft Network: “Missouri safety Tyree Gillespie projects as a depth player in the NFL who is capable of fulfilling significant snaps in spot duty and act as a primary special teams contributor on kick coverages. Gillespie offers some sturdy tackling and has spent the vast majority of his reps as a starter with the Tigers acting as the post safety in single-high coverage. His projection is much less favorable to playing single high in the pros; he’ll be better served working as a split safety and not being charged with commanding the entire middle of the field by himself. He’s a physical football player—teams that covet the potential of an enforcer on the back end will certainly have him earmarked as a potential value buy. Gillespie has NFL caliber functional athleticism but not to the degree in which he’d need it to fulfill a prominent starting role in the back end of an NFL defense.”
I think Gillespie will carve out a nice role for himself in the NFL. If you’re a Chiefs fan, think Dan Sorensen. He can play deep if asked, he can play in the box when necessary and he can contribute in a big way on special teams.
Safety Joshuah Bledsoe - Round 4-6:
Bledsoe is maybe the Tigers’ most interesting player in this year’s draft. He played as much slot corner last year as he did safety. He’s perfect for the modern NFL as a fungible player who can play wherever you need him to depending on the down and distance situation.
From Kyle Crabbs of The Draft Network: Missouri safety Joshuah Bledsoe is a versatile hybrid defender who will bring plenty of value to an NFL franchise with his ability to play in the nickel or work in the slot. Bledsoe is at his best when he’s rolled down near the line of scrimmage and able to work in man coverage against slot receivers. Bledsoe has shown a high level of competency in defeating blocks on the fringe of the set and subsequently has made strong plays in the run game by shooting gaps or shucking blocks and rolling the ball carrier. Bledsoe has had only sparing reps taken as a high safety—and while he has the athletic profile to be successful there, he clearly lacks the same feel and instinct for assignments and making plays as compared to what he does with a more singular objective on any given play. Because of his modest appeal in deep coverage, Bledsoe projects best as a hybrid safety defender in the NFL; but given the trends of the league to play in 11-personnel and sub-package defense, there’s little reason to think a team won’t find value in his skills and make him a priority.
Bledsoe will forever be remembered by Mizzou fans for his game-winning play at the goal line against LSU. That’s exactly the type of play that will have NFL teams salivating to add him to their roster at some point on day three of the NFL Draft.
Offensive Lineman Larry Borom - Round 6-7:
Borom seems to be getting overlooked because it’s an incredibly deep offensive line class. He might end up having similar knocks against him to what we saw with Yasir Durant a year ago. Borom lacks some athleticism, but that didn’t seem to be a problem for him in the SEC. He was one of the most effective offensive linemen in the conference last season.
From Kyle Crabbs of The Draft Network: “Larry Borom projects as a fringe NFL offensive lineman. Borom, who leaves Missouri as a multi-year starter who has logged reps at both tackle and on the interior, does not inspire a great deal of enthusiasm with his functional athleticism and range as a blocker. But with his stature and strong hands, Borom feels destined to gather a look somewhere in the NFL due to some of the more uncoachable dynamics at play with his game. The big question for him is how much untapped potential he can provide an NFL franchise. If a team comes away convinced they can tap into more functional athleticism, he may surprise with his draft stock. But based on the film, he’ll be challenged to secure a 53-man roster role in the league.”
Crabbs’ analysis seems to be the consensus among media scouts. It remains to be seen if the NFL feels the same way. A strong showing at Mizzou’s Pro Day could go a long way in helping his draft status.