After becoming one of the SEC’s most productive defenders last season, Nick Bolton rose 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
Weight: 232 pounds
Current Year: Junior
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. Bolton put everyone on notice with his gaudy numbers and is widely considered one of the 2021 NFL Draft’s best linebackers.
Bolton bounces back with quality game against Mississippi State
In what was his final collegiate game, Nick Bolton went out with a strong showing. Registering seven tackles (one for loss) and a pass deflection, he had a nice bounce back from his performance against Georgia. With a strong NFL Combine, we could see Bolton taken in the first round.
Bolton underwhelming against Georgia
Nick Bolton has been arguably the best linebacker in the country this year. He’s been superbly productive while functioning as the top player on the Missouri defense. However, against Georgia, he had his worst game of the season. Regardless of his last performance, Bolton still projects as a top-50 selection and could see his stock rise into the top 25.
Bolton ejected on pathetic targeting call
Targeting has continued to be the worst penalty in college football. Paid referees call it on any big hit, regardless of whether it meets the requisites for the penalty. Bolton lit up Arkansas WR John David White over the middle of the field by hitting him in the chest with his shoulder. It was the best defensive play of the day throughout the entirety of college football.
Yet, the officiating crew wrongly threw a flag. Thankfully, Bolton will be eligible to play on Saturday, as the ejection occurred in the first half. Hopefully, in the NFL, Bolton’s impact won’t be wasted by inept officials.
New game, same results for Bolton against Vanderbilt
Bolton registered two tackles for loss and a sack against Vanderbilt. He now has six and a half tackles for loss and two sacks in his last four games. The Missouri linebacker made nine total tackles this past weekend and brought his season total to 76. Bolton has been one of the most productive players in the nation, and has his draft stock has risen every week. Expect another productive game this upcoming week against Arkansas.
Bolton dominates South Carolina
The South Carolina Gamecocks only managed ten total points against the Missouri defense, and Nick Bolton was at the heart of the cause. Registering 14 total tackles, two of which were behind the line of scrimmage, Bolton continued his reign of terror on opposing offenses. Bolton is now averaging over 11 tackles per game this season. Currently, he’s playing himself into NFL draft first-round conversations.
Bolton plays best game of career against Florida to continue raising NFL Draft stock
It may not have been the most productive game of his career. But, rest assured, his film against Florida is the best tape Nick Bolton has produced. He was everywhere, constantly thwarting what the Florida offense wanted to do. He registered ten total tackles and one and a half tackles for loss. Bolton has been the best performing linebacker in the country to this point in the season.
Minor production regression for Bolton in win over Kentucky
After averaging 14 tackles a game the last two weeks, it’s understandable that Bolton would return to some level of normalcy. He accumulated seven tackles and a sack in Missouri’s second win this season. He was still an overwhelming positive on the game and was arguably the best player on the field on any given snap.
Back to back double-digit tackle games for Nick Bolton
After blowing us away last week with his 17 tackle performance, it almost strange to say an 11 tackle performance against LSU was a bit underwhelming. That is until you recognize that Bolton also registered three pass deflections and was a thorn in the LSU passing attack all night. Bolton doesn’t get enough credit for how good he is in coverage; it’s a definite strength of his game.
Bolton blows up the stat sheet against Tennessee to boost NFL Draft stock
We thought Nick Bolton played a productive game in the season opener. Yet, we had no idea what we were in store for. Against the Tennessee Volunteers, Bolton registered 17 total tackles, the most of his career. He was everywhere, making plays from sideline to sideline and thumping in between the tackles. Games like this are why it’s easy to see a reality where Bolton leads the NFL in tackles.
Productive opener for Bolton
Despite Missouri being the obviously inferior team, the Missouri defense held Alabama to 38 points. This may not seem impressive, but it’s the only time in the first six weeks that the Alabama offense was held under 40 points. Bolton flew around all game, registering eight total tackles, a tackle for loss, and a fumble recovery. Bolton’s strong start to the season is massive for his draft stock.
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, and 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.