2021 NFL Draft Scouting Report: Nick Boltonby Alex Barbour January 27, 2021 0 comments
Nick Bolton brings the heat when it comes to highlights: big hits, flying ankle tackles, and more. His unbelievable hit power will keep audiences, not to mention players, always on the lookout for his next tackle attempt. With some major red flags in his tackling consistency, there are unfortunately some unforgettable negatives that keep him out of contention from being a top-tier linebacker. Fortunately for Bolton, the 2021 NFL Draft lacks talent at the top of the linebacker class. He nicely slots in as a guaranteed top five, if not top three linebackers in this year’s class.
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Name: Nick Bolton
Weight: 232 lbs
This is a big shocker. A consistent theme with a majority of these categories will be that he is hot or cold when it comes to each trait. There are moments where Bolton wraps up with peak NFL tackling form, and he brings down even the mightiest of college running backs (especially Najee Harris). On the other hand, a consistent red flag was sliding off of guys, as well as missing ankle tackles. These issues have reasoning that is cause for concern, which will be discussed in more categories than this one. A five may appear low, but on this scale, it is just pure average. When a player flashes nine but consistently shows two, the score must remain a solid five.
Hit strength (8.75/10)
Watch out, everybody. Bolton will stop anyone in their tracks. Yes, anyone. Harris, Zamir White, name a power back, and he can stop them. Time after time, Bolton stuffs players at the goal line. If his tackling were more consistent, he might be considered as a top-two linebacker for this class.
Run Defense (7.25/10)
When Bolton reads the hole correctly, he uses his hit power to deny any possibility of running through him (hopefully he can make the tackle, too). A solid percentage of the time (say 60 percent), he can make a play. This is why Bolton makes so many tackles every game. This is his strong suit in comparison to his coverage, which will be discussed later.
Was it mentioned that Bolton would be hit or miss multiple times? Well, here is another spot where he is spot on or embarrassingly off. Bolton shows flashes of greatness: a player with greater athleticism than him may bend a corner when engaged with another player, and Bolton will adjust his course to ensure a breakaway cannot happen. On the other hand, there are many instances that his pursuit angles are painfully off, and he has to readjust, which leads to the missed ankle tackles, as were mentioned earlier. Players always make mistakes regardless of who they are, but not many great ones make this fall from top-5 talent to round-5 talent.
This is hit or miss, once again. At points, Bolton will fly through the hole in a way that few others his age could dream of; however, there are many instances on tape that show how he can get completely lost if not choose the wrong side of the field to pursue (yes, this did happen a noticeable amount of times). Sometimes it looked as if Trent Richardson’s eyes gave Bolton’s eyes a break for a play or two. It is hard to wrap any form of understanding around this bipolar nature with his vision.
Bolton does not shine here. There are many instances of guys being either wide open or drawing a flag due to him grabbing on to not let a breakaway touchdown catch. He is far from a horrific liability: if he were, he would have a lot more targets coming his way. This said, Missouri runs a heavy zone scheme with their linebackers on quite a few passing downs, which helps blur the massive man-coverage mistakes he makes. Bolton’s blitzing and spying plays look phenomenal, which might be the only reason his score approaches an average of five on this report. Blitzing may factor into the run game as well, but its impact is seen most heavily on these passing downs.
Straight Line Speed (7.5/10)
Bolton is no track star, but he is far from a slouch, too. His speed is not going to test in the 4.4s, and maybe he will not hit 4.5s, but he will be in the low 4.6s at least, which is adequate. When it comes to a run-stuffer, his speed is perfect. Inside linebackers like Josey Jewell have shown to be useful in their role even when testing in the 4.7s. Bolton is fine. He just will not be picked to a scheme where he needs to cover all 50 yards to his left and right.
Short Area Burst (7.5/10)
This is another hit or miss category. Bolton shows flashes of insane speed burst at the line of scrimmage. He took out Najee Harris in a flash after being at a standstill 3 yards away. On the other hand, Bolton overestimates his burst ability past 3 yards, which leads to the inconsistent pursuit angles described beforehand. He has high-end talent in this area, but his mind can override his ability to use this correctly.
Positional Versatility (3.5/10)
Bolton is strictly an inside linebacker. His blitzing skills, along with spy ability, allow him to be used across the field; however if Bolton is placed anywhere but inside linebacker, it may be a dead giveaway of a blitz. If a defensive genius like Vic Fangio understands this and utilizes him correctly, he may prove to be far more flexible than what meets the eye. Unfortunately for Bolton, there are not that many great minds like Fangio’s.
Competitive Toughness (4/5)
Bolton tries almost every play. He crashes through linemen 100 pounds heavier than he is without a shadow of a doubt. He tracks down ball carriers that are 50 yards away. This said, there are blips on the radar that show how Bolton can slow up tremendously when he feels like the play is not going his way. Unfortunately for him, he is no psychic: the plays do sometimes reverse his way, which leads to him being out of position and being forced to make an ankle tackle (which he usually misses).
The injury bill is pretty spotless for Bolton. The end of his final season was haunted by a nagging undisclosed injury, but it did not stop him from playing.
It is boom or bust time, ladies and gentlemen. Bolton has shown the world both sides of the coin numerous times. The most unfortunate thing for both him, as well as the fans, is that Bolton’s career may heavily be in the hands of the team that drafts him and their coaching. His hit power and flashes of elite vision provide one of the most intriguing prospects in a very weak linebacker class, which may lead to Bolton being selected as early as the first round. Only time shall tell if this player is the animal he has teased audiences with or the disappointment he has spooked scouts with.
Final Grade (66.25/100): Early-Second Round
Player Comp: Jayon Brown