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2021 NFL Draft Profile: Missouri Linebacker Nick Bolton

Missouri’s best bet for a 2021 1st-Round pick made quite the impact in his two years as a starter

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 16 Florida at Missouri

The 2021 NFL Draft begins on Thursday, April 29 and runs though Saturday, May 1, and Mizzou is expecting to have multiple players hear their names called at some point throughout the extended weekend. The list of Tigers expected to be selected at some point in the draft includes: linebacker Nick Bolton, offensive lineman Larry Borom, running back Larry Rountree III, safety Tyree Gillespie and defensive back Joshuah Bledsoe. Wide receivers Damon Hazelton, Johnathon Johnson and Jonathan Nance could also find their way into an NFL Training camp.

Rock M Nation is taking a deep dive into each player’s NFL Draft stock breaking down strengths, weaknesses and potential team fit.

Today we’re breaking down Mizzou linebacker Nick Bolton.

Profile:

Missouri v Arkansas
Nick Bolton
Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

Name: Nick Bolton

Position: Linebacker

Age: 21 (3/10/2000)

Height: 5-foot-11

Weight: 237 pounds

Arm Length: 31 7/8”

Hand Length: 10 3/8“

Wing Span: 76 1/4”

Draft Projection: 2nd Round

Drafted: 2nd Round, 26th pick - Kansas City Chiefs


Pro Day Measurables:

40-yard dash: 4.60

Bench press (225 pounds): 24 reps

Vertical jump: 32”

Broad jump: 9-7

Three-cone drill: 7.40

20-yard shuttle: 4.50

Player Comparison: Bears linebacker Danny Trevathan


College Statistics:

Games Played: 32 (22 starts)

Total Tackles: 224 (17.5 tackles for loss)

Sacks: 4

Interceptions: 2

Passes Defended: 15

Forced Fumbles: Zero

Fumble Recoveries: 1

Defensive Touchdowns: 1

College Accolades:

  • 2019 First Team All-SEC; led team in tackles and PDs; INT TD
  • 2020 Second Team All-American; First Team All-SEC; Team Captain; led team in tackles

Overview:

A three-star recruit out of high school, Bolton was the No. 39 inside linebacker in the 2018 class and the No. 156 recruit in Texas. The summer prior to his senior year, he committed to Washington, which was his favorite team growing up. However, the two sides parted ways after the Huskies’ coaches were upset he wouldn’t shut down his recruitment. As signing day approached, he was leaning toward signing with Louisiana Tech or Kansas until Missouri made a late push and swayed him to sign with the Tigers (he was ranked as the 13th-best recruit in Missouri’s 2018 class).

Bolton played in all 13 games as a true freshman (22 tackles, one sack) before breaking out as a bonafide SEC star in 2019, earning first-team all-conference honors after leading the league with 8.9 tackles per game (107 total, 7.5 for loss), intercepting two passes and breaking up eight others in 12 starts. Even while noticeably battling an injury towards the end of the season, he was named second-team Associated Press All-American, first-team All-SEC and a Butkus Award finalist in 2020, leading the Tigers with 95 tackles and 7.5 tackles for loss (including two sacks), while breaking up five passes in 10 starts.


What scouts and analysts are saying about Bolton:

From Dane Brugler of The Athletic:

STRENGTHS: Agile feet and unrelenting play speed...mirrors runners laterally and hits the accelerator through the hole and into contact...physical striker and arrives at the ball carrier with bad intentions...decisive reads and won’t hesitate or wait for the ball carrier to get to him...outstanding anticipation versus the run to beat blockers to the spot...physical hands to work off blocks...can turn and run, covering up wheel or seem routes...intuitive by nature and a quick learner, he translates his tape study to the field...fiery and unforced mentality...well-respected by his teammates and described as a “consummate professional” by Missouri defensive coordinator Ryan Walters for his character and work ethic...durable and didn’t miss any games in college...highly productive starter, leading the team in tackles the last two seasons.

From The Draft Network:

Missouri linebacker Nick Bolton projects as an impact starter at the NFL level thanks to his linear explosiveness to trigger and attack between the tackles and his ability to deliver jarring hits to ball carriers. Bolton has a pro-ready build and carries himself with confidence in traffic—for better and for worse. Bolton was a standout in Missouri’s defensive front and his role as the leader and enforcer of the Tigers’ defense has groomed him well for a featured role in the heart of an NFL defense. Bolton’s prowess in the passing game shines in zone coverage, as he can drive on shallow routes that flash in front of his face and make receivers think twice about coming over the middle. But there’s plenty of room for improvement in Bolton’s game in space, both with angles to attack throws and his decision-making process to work overtop of the play versus shooting gaps to try to get home and create a splash play in the backfield. Bolton has come on strong after entering his sophomore season in 2019 as a first-year starter, so there should be plenty of optimism that Bolton can continue to hone his decision-making process and develop into a more consistent fill player and coverage option. Teams who implement a lot of green-dog blitzes and pressure schemes up the middle will love the leverage, twitch, and hitting power that Bolton brings to the football field.

From Lance Zeirlein of NFL.com:

When you think about strong, forceful inside linebackers, Bolton is the type of player you might be envisioning. He’s going to fall below typical NFL starter standards from a size standpoint, but his rugged frame and forceful demeanor help make up for it. Play recognition and pursuit instincts help carry him to the football and he’s a message-sending striker when he gets the runner squared up. He has functional short-area burst between the tackles but will struggle to run down the outside run if he’s not close enough to the action. He will need to lean heavier on his instincts to help speed him up because of size and speed limitations. Bolton plays with good field recognition when dropping into zone and has a history of making plays on the football in coverage. He’s a three-down linebacker who can make an immediate contribution on special teams and has the potential to become a future starter.