2022 NFL Draft Scouting Report: Nik Bonitto

2022 NFL Draft Scouting Report: Nik Bonitto

by February 7, 2022 1 comment

When the 2020 college football season ended, Nik Bonitto was a name everyone knew. Many thought he’d go in the top five of this year’s draft, and he was an elite talent. This, however, could not be any more wrong. Bonitto is a good football player, but the hype just soared away from him in 2021. So instead, we have a player who is a bit of a sleeper in a seriously deep edge class.

Before we get too far down the road, let’s state Bonitto is not a traditional edge rusher. He drops into coverage a lot but still will be graded as an edge because it’s clearly the most natural place he plays. With guys like Aidan Hutchinson, Kayvon Thibodeaux, George Karlaftis, and Jermaine Johnson all most likely going in the first round, let’s see if Bonitto can be that later-round guy who can turn into a better NFL player than some of the higher competition.

Make sure to check out all of our other NFL Draft Scouting Reports.

Player Bio

Name: Nik Bonitto
Jersey: No. 11
Position: EDGE
School: Oklahoma
Class: Junior
Height: 6’3″
Weight: 240 lbs
Games Watched: Nebraska (2021), Oklahoma State (2021), Florida (2020), Iowa State (2020), Texas (2020)

Major Injury History: None

Player Breakdown

Pass Rush Ability (10.25/15)

With 18 sacks through three seasons of meaningful reps, the stats look solid for Bonitto out the gate. Obviously, however, you can’t judge an NFL player off of sacks and statistics. Bonitto has shown some very nice moves in the pass-rush, but from an overall standpoint, he’s not the pass-rush threat people think. Due to his smaller frame, bigger tackles have dominated Bonitto. As a result, he’s a non-factor against double-teams, and a fair amount of his sacks are coverage ones. However, where Bonitto has seen success is in his bag of moves.

He’s big on the rip-through hand movements, as well as the spin move. Against Florida, we saw Bonitto use his spin move early and often. Most of those attempts got stuffed, but when they didn’t, it was lethal. Another bonus is that Bonitto’s hands are constantly active, and he can knock the lineman’s initial pop down well. At the end of the day, there’s potential for Bonitto to be a good pass-rusher at the next level, but from what he put on tape, it’s just average as of now. You’d like to see Bonitto take steps to add one or two more moves when he comes into the league but continues to stick to his strengths because they have, in fact, worked for him.

Explosiveness (8.5/10)

We mentioned that frame earlier, but that was in a negative scenario. Now, we have some good from it. Bonitto’s size allows him to move around very fluidly. He’s a quick and twitchy rusher and can beat a tackle with speed alone. We see Bonitto trying moves, where he’ll make a quick step outside and move inside that will work from time to time. Here, he doesn’t use his hands much, just that quickness that can make a real impact in the NFL.

First Step (8.5/10)

Bonitto is often the first man on the field to get out of his stance once the ball is snapped. This was shown early in his career, especially against Iowa State. While this is impressive, he needs to take advantage of this skill more. The first step is one of those abilities that you love to work with for a developmental player in the NFL, and it can be something that Bonitto excels at with training. He needs to get into a move faster to make the first step really devastating, but the potential is there.

Bend (5.5/10)

Constant improvement is something you love to see from any player, and Bonitto has it here. However, with that being said, Bonitto’s bend is still rough. This is unfortunate because there are so many 3-4 type edge rushers in this draft that have a better bend than Bonitto does, and it will certainly hurt his draft stock. In the 2020 film, Bonitto was stiff as aboard. This continued into 2021 against Nebraska, where he was still practically standing, but against Oklahoma State at the end of the year was a different story.

In the regular-season game against the Cowboys, Bonitto showed some nice bend on specific reps, but he went back to his old tendencies quite a bit. We gave solid positivity towards Bonitto’s bend, however, it’s really not good. At the end of the day, this is the trait that will hurt Bonitto most come draft, and playing time.

Hand Usage (7/10)

The hands for Bonitto are active but inconsistent. When he doesn’t get his initial rip-through to succeed, Bonitto keeps his hands going at the lineman, but it’s not effective. He’s even seen going right at the lineman’s face. It’s not been called much, but Bonitto has committed several hands to the face penalties just because he’s stuck up in the rep and doesn’t know how to get free. As for power, there’s not too much here. Bonitto will certainly not knock a lineman back, and he has nothing near a “deadly” punch. It’s expected with his size, but then it begs the question, he can’t bend or bring serious pop, how will Bonitto win in the league?

Motor (7.5/10)

Effort and motor for Bonitto aren’t going to be a downfall for him in the NFL, but he’s also not the alpha player on a defensive unit. The good news is, there are no plays off for Bonitto, however, you see players like David Ojabo and Hutchinson, who have intensive motors, and you can’t but Bonitto close to them. So again, this is an average rating in terms of motor but is something that can’t be detrimental for his career.

Tackling (7.75/10)

The tackling is good for the most part. In one of the first plays against Florida, we see that he gets beat initially by the backer but recovers to make a nice ankle tackle. Ankle tackles are a large theme with Bonitto, and he dives low a lot. Sometimes he sees success by doing this; other times, he doesn’t. The best play in terms of tackling Bonitto has made came against Nebraska. He had a pretty free rush at the ball carrier off the line but was able to wrap up, and basically dominate, a much quicker back and smaller back for the TFL.

Strength at the LOS (5.25/10)

To sum this category up, one phrase you can use is “not much.” We touched on this a bit earlier when discussing Bonitto’s hands, but he doesn’t have that crazy power to his game. Now, linemen aren’t necessarily pushing him back 10 yards on each play, but he doesn’t get driven a little and isn’t getting a lineman out of position with strength. Bonitto tries to bull-rush as well, and it barely ever works, especially when he just runs straight into a bigger tackle. Another pretty weak area for what we thought would be a promising player.

Run Defense (5.75/10)

This is where the strength at the line hurts Bonitto most. In no way is Bonitto going to go and set the edge, and in no way will he provide much run defense early on in the NFL. We did see a nice stop against a draw player verse Florida, but that was practically it for the true highlights of Bonitto against the run.

Versatility (5/5)

This is Bonitto’s best trait. That explosiveness, twitch, and athleticism allowed Bonitto to excel with his versatility, and Oklahoma knew how to use it. Bonitto lined up on both sides of the line, but the most impressive part was how well he dropped into coverage. He was mostly seen in short zones and succeeded quite often. Bonitto is the perfect 3-4 outside linebacker because of this. It’ll be fun to see how teams use him in the NFL.

Player Summary

All the hype coming into the 2021 season, but it wasn’t warranted. In fact, Bonitto looked way worse in 2020 than he did in 2021, so those saying he was ever a top-five pick were just looking at the stats. Still, Bonitto can make something out of himself in the NFL. That versatility is key for how he’ll get reps, and you’d like to see a team in the latter half of the rounds draft Bonitto, so he can spend time developing. If he can master his strengths and improve on the weaknesses, as well as get stronger, Bonitto has the potential to be a very solid 3-4 outside linebacker at the next level. If these things do not happen, Bonitto’s NFL career will be brief. 

Rookie Projection: Developmental 3-4 Outside Linebacker

Third-Year Projection: Rotational 3-4 Outside Linebacker

Player Grade (72/100): Fifth Round

Player Comparison: Preston Smith

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