After becoming one of the SEC’s most productive defenders last season, Nick Bolton rose on 2021 NFL Draft boards during the summer scouting process. He cemented himself as one of 2021’s top linebacker prospects. Small in stature for the position, Bolton makes his living as a strong athlete with great instincts for the game. He’s a sparkplug on the field and projects as a player NFL teams would love in their locker room. A leader both on and off the field, he looks to transition into a MIKE backer in the NFL.
Nick Bolton NFL Draft Profile
- Position: Linebacker
- School: Missouri
- Current Year: Junior
- Height: 6’0″
- Weight: 232 pounds
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Tony Pauline’s Nick Bolton Scouting Report
Positives: Undersized run-and-chase linebacker who is best in pursuit. Instinctive, quick to read and diagnose, and explosive. Stays with assignments, finds the ball handler and fires up the field making plays against the run. Plays with great suddenness and flashes on the scene out of nowhere.
Takes proper angles to the action, shows speed to the flanks, and cuts off the corners from ball handlers. Covers a tremendous amount of area on the field. Nasty, goes hard after opponents, and wraps up tackling. Fluid moving in every direction and effective making plays in space.
Negatives: Small, slow getting off blocks, and out-positioned from the action by a single opponent. Not a stout tackler and tends to drag down ball handlers.
Analysis: Bolton is a tough, athletic linebacker who flies around the field and plays with great speed as well as explosion. He comes with size limitations and needs a free shot at the ball, but Bolton will flourish in the right system that protects him and allows him to make plays in pursuit.
Nick Bolton Player Profile
A three-star prospect coming out of high school was obvious Bolton was the best player whenever he stepped onto the field. Winning District MVP in back to back years in high school, it’s shocking he wasn’t viewed as a better high school prospect. Despite getting offers from defensive powerhouses like Utah and Washington, Bolton elected to attend Missouri.
Bolton saw immediate playing time as a true freshman, playing in a rotational role for ten games, registering 22 tackles and a sack. He showed the most promise in his game against Alabama. As a true freshman, against arguably the best college football team year in and year out, Bolton went out and registered eight total tackles and even had a 10-yard kick return.
In his second season, Bolton became one of the top linebackers in the entire SEC, leading the conference in tackles and being named First Team All-Conference. Bolton registered 103 total tackles on the year, eight of which for loss. He also produced one sack, two interceptions, one of which he returned for a touchdown, and seven pass deflections.
2021 NFL Draft stock builds in junior season
Bolton put everyone on notice with his gaudy numbers and went in to his junior season as one of the 2021 NFL Draft’s best linebackers.
He continued to build his reputation as an old-school thumper type of linebacker in the 2020 season. He set career high single game tackles in the second game of the season against Tennessee. As a follow up, he flashed his all-round game against Louisiana State, racking up 11 tackles and breaking up 3 passes in a win. Despite playing in two less games in 2020, he came close to his sophomore season production totals. He registered 95 tackles, 8 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, and 5 pass break ups.
Following his junior season, Missouri linebacker Nick Bolton opted to forego his senior season and declare for the 2021 NFL Draft.
Nick Bolton’s NFL Draft fits
It’s hard to evaluate just exactly how much the NFL will value Nick Bolton. You can find draft analysts that view him as the second-best linebacker in the class, while others have him closer to LB10 than LB1. However, the NFL will recognize his blend of strong athletic ability and an elite football IQ. As a result, someone will take him with the intent to be the MIKE of their defense. Teams like the Philadelphia Eagles, Cleveland Browns, and Kansas City Chiefs all make a lot of sense.
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