With two players selected in the first round, it’s safe to say this year’s NFL Draft was a success for the Miami Hurricanes defense. Although a repetition seems unlikely next year, one Hurricanes player has received early first-round attention. Can Miami safety Bubba Bolden be a potential first-round prospect in the 2022 NFL Draft? Let’s examine his early scouting report to find out.
Bubba Bolden NFL Draft Profile
- Position: Safety
- School: Miami
- Current Year: Redshirt Senior
- Height: 6’3″
- Weight: 204 pounds
Bubba Bolden Scouting Report
Bolden was a highly regarded high school recruit, and his performances at Miami have earned him significant attention in the upcoming NFL Draft class. So, what does his scouting report tell us about his ability to translate that to the next level?
At 6’3″ and 204 pounds, Bolden has excellent size at the safety position. More impressive than his height/weight profile is his length. Bolden has impressive length, and although we’ve yet to see him use that to devastating effect in coverage, he has demonstrated that he can use it to wrap up as a tackler. He’s also a heavy hitter, although there are some issues that we’ll get to shortly.
The size and length combination makes up an exceptional athletic profile. Although Bolden isn’t the fastest defensive back in the 2022 NFL Draft class, he has outstanding short-area speed, covering ground effortlessly. This is particularly apparent when he comes flying downhill with purpose. That explosion and a remarkable change-of-direction ability make him a dangerous proposition as a blitzer.
Where versatility is increasingly becoming the best ability, Bolden will be incredibly valuable at the NFL level. He has experience playing deep, in the box, and in the slot. Furthermore, he has a history of special-teams excellence. Moreover, the redshirt senior exhibits solid football intelligence, reading and diagnosing the play and fighting his way to the ball.
Areas for improvement
Although Bolden’s athletic profile, physicality, and versatility will make him an alluring 2022 NFL Draft prospect, there are areas for improvement.
Despite being an enforcer and demonstrating the ability to wrap up as a tackler, this is where he needs to show the most development this year. Bolden often takes bad angles as a tackler. This leads to too many examples of him grasping at thin air with his intended target escaping his clutches.
While he has been highly impactful as a tackler, he can elevate his NFL Draft stock by making more plays in the passing game. Although statistics shouldn’t be a defining factor in the evaluation, Bolden’s lack of pass breakups in his career is evidenced by an absence of impressive plays on the ball in pass coverage.
Injury history and inexperience aren’t areas for improvement. However, as part of a complete evaluation, they are factors that need to be considered. Bolden is in his fifth season out of high school but has only started 10 career games. The ankle injury was a freak accident, so it shouldn’t present an issue, although NFL teams will want to ensure there’s no lasting damage ahead of the 2022 NFL Draft.
Bolden’s Player Profile
Bolden’s journey to the 2022 NFL Draft has contained every high and low imaginable. Awards, injuries, and suspension have all played their part, but his football origins are rooted in one of the nation’s most successful high school programs. A Las Vegas native, Bolden played his high school football at the dominant Bishop Gorman high school, where he was a contributor to three consecutive national championships.
“Contributor” is downplaying Bolden’s influence on Bishop Gorman’s success. Even as a sophomore, he turned heads with 30 tackles while showcasing playmaking ability with an interception. During his junior season, Bolden established himself as one of the nation’s best defensive backs. The four-star prospect was the seventh-ranked safety in the 2017 recruiting class and earned offers from over 20 college programs. Making an early decision in a wild recruiting ride, he committed to USC following his junior campaign.
It was a decision that Bolden would cool off from, leaving his recruitment open heading into his senior season. 2016 was the most successful season of the young safety’s high school career. Bolden racked up 27 tackles, 5 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 7 interceptions, and 2 pass breakups. Additionally, he flashed special-teams ability with a blocked field goal.
Bolden finished his Bishop Gorman career as a first-team All-American by multiple outlets and was named the USA Today All-Nevada Defensive Player of the Year. By the end of his senior year, he’d narrowed down his college future to Ohio State, Arizona State, and USC. With multiple high school teammates (including Tate Martell) committed to the Buckeyes, the expectation was that he’d follow suit. Yet, Bolden announced his re-commitment to USC and enrolled with the Trojans.
Bolden’s college football career
Bolden’s introduction to college football was similar to most high school recruits. Although he’d had success at Bishop Gorman, he required a period of adjustment before ascending to a starting role in USC’s secondary. He did, however, see game time in 13 contests during his freshman campaign, registering 8 tackles. After impressing in his freshman season, many expected him to become a starter for 2018.
Bolden never did line up as a starter for the 2018 USC Trojans. Following his involvement in a party that saw underage drinking, trash-talking, and alleged threatening behavior, USC hit the young safety with a 28-month ban from the program. Absent from the team’s depth chart to start the season, Bolden eventually parted ways with the program later in the year and reportedly enrolled at a junior college. He released a social media statement expressing remorse for his involvement.
“My behavior at the party was not reflective of my character which my family, friends, teammates, and many more admire, and for this I’m truly sorry. I’m 100% committed to ensuring that the lessons I’ve learned on and off the field will carry me to the next level.”
Bolden transfers to Miami for the 2019 season
At times during 2018, the next level seemed like a distant dream for Bolden. Yet, a transfer to Miami would give him an opportunity for redemption and rebirth. Due to transfer regulations, he’d have to miss the first four games of the season, delaying his ability to make an impact in the Hurricanes’ defensive backfield.
Once he found the field in South Florida, Bolden showed why he’d been such a highly regarded recruit. He made his debut against Virginia Tech, logging 2 tackles. The Miami DB followed up with his first pass breakup against Virginia one week later. Bolden’s performances earned him his first start against Pitt, where he displayed his disruptive tendencies with a forced fumble.
Within several seconds against Florida State, Bolden once again experienced the full rollercoaster of college football emotions. The young safety snagged an interception off a tipped pass, the first of his career. While celebrating the turnover with a teammate, he jumped up and landed awkwardly on his right ankle, causing a season-ending dislocation.
Despite the small body of work in his first season, expectations were high for Bolden in 2020
The redshirt senior did not disappoint in 2020. While teammate Jaelan Phillips was elevating his NFL Draft stock, Bolden provided solid production from the secondary. In nine starts, he tallied 74 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 1 interception, and 4 forced fumbles.
His performances earned him multiple ACC Defensive Back of the Week awards. The first came against Louisville, where he terrorized the Cardinals’ offense to the tune of 11 tackles, 1 forced fumble, and a tackle for loss. Even in a heavy defeat to Clemson, his 10 tackles, 1 forced fumble, and 2 blocked field goals were enough to land the honor. Additionally, he was a semifinalist for the Jim Thorpe Award and received second-team All-ACC recognition.
Although Bolden was eligible for this year’s NFL Draft, the young safety opted to return to Miami. In doing so, he’s positioned himself to be one of the best safeties in the 2022 class. There are areas for development, but Bolden has the athletic tools to warrant early-round attention next spring.
Want more 2022 NFL Draft prospect news? Want to do your own mock draft?
Dive into PFN’s Free NFL Mock Draft Simulator and test your own drafting acumen. Continue to visit Pro Football Network for NFL news and in-depth analysis. Also, be sure to follow us on Twitter (@PFN365) to stay in the loop on all things college football and the NFL Draft landscape.
Oliver Hodgkinson is an NFL Draft Analyst for Pro Football Network. You can follow him on Twitter at @ojhodgkinson.