2021 NFL Draft Scouting Report: Nick Bolton
By Charlie Campbell
Summary: Over the past two seasons, Bolton wasn one of the most consistent and steady linebackers in the SEC. He broke out in 2019 with 100 tackles, one sack, two interceptions and eight passes defended. As a junior, Bolton was even more productive considering he had less games in the shortened season. Over his 10 games of 2020, Bolton recorded 95 tackles with two sacks and five passes defended.
Bolton really stands out as a run defender in the tackle box. He is an instinctive with quick diagnosis skills and a sharpened ability to read-and-react. Bolton has an aggressive demeanor and will attack downhill to work his way through trash to make tackles. Bolton stays around the ball, is a hard hitter, a physical presence, and a reliable linebacker to limit the other team's rushing offense.
While Bolton is good in the tackle box, he has limited speed and range. He can have issues getting to the flat and is not a sideline-to-sideline heat-seeking missile. Bolton also is not a great athlete or that big for the NFL.
In pass coverage, Bolton showed some ability to play zone in the middle of the field and also held his own in man coverage on tight ends. His limited speed, range and athleticism, however, are issues for covering in the NFL. Hence, he could be rotated out of the game a fair amount in the sub package, which is played 70 percent of snaps.
Bolton could play on the inside of a 3-4 defense in the NFL, but his best fit could come as 4-3 Mike - middle - linebacker. Some in the media have Bolton projected as a first-rounder, but some team sources said they have Bolton graded on Day 3 of the 2021 NFL Draft as a fourth- or fifth-rounder. Other team evaluators said they had Bolton graded in the third round, with one team saying they had him as a late second- to early third-round pick. Overall, team contacts thought was likely to be a second- or third-round pick.
Player Comparison: Josey Jewell. Jewell was a tough run defender for Iowa who had some limitations in terms of speed and athleticism. Jewell has turned into a solid starter, and Bolton could be similar, although he is a little smaller than Jewell.
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