Note: The NFL Draft begins April 29 and the Green Bay Packers have the 29th pick in the first round. Between now and then, I’ll examine 29 players — one each day — the Packers could select with that pick.
Today, we look at Missouri linebacker Nick Bolton.
NICK BOLTON, LB, MISSOURI
Bolton led the Tigers in tackles over the last two years and finished his career with 220 tackles, 17.5 tackles for loss, 4.0 sacks, 12 passes defensed, and two interceptions in 32 games.
Bolton earned all-state honors at Lone Star High School (Tx.), then played in all 13 games as a freshman for Missouri. As a sophomore in 2019, Bolton earned first-team all-conference honors after leading the league with 8.9 tackles per game, intercepting two passes and breaking up eight more.
In 2020, Bolton led the Tigers with 95 tackles and 7.5 tackles for loss. He added two sacks and broke up five passes, then was named second-team Associated Press All-American, first-team All-SEC and a Butkus Award finalist.
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40-yard dash: 4.59 and 4.60
Bench press: 24 reps of 225 pounds
Vertical jump: 32”
Broad jump: 9-7”
Bolton lacks ideal size, but he makes up for it with his nasty demeanor and powerful frame. Bolton has a high football IQ, is terrific at finding the ball and packs a punch when he locates ball carriers.
Bolton has strong hands, which help him take on much bigger blockers. He’s quick to the ball in short areas and has the coverage skills necessary to play all three downs.
Bolton’s top-end speed is below average, though, and he can lose ground when plays are run away from him. Bolton’s ability to disengage from blockers must improve. He’ll also have to trust his instincts if he hopes to play faster to make up for size limitations.
The outside world looks at Green Bay’s inside linebacking group — undrafted Krys Barnes, 2019 seventh round draft pick Ty Summers and 2020 fifth-rounder Kamal Martin — and says an upgrade is necessary.
It’s questionable if Green Bay feels the same way, though.
The Packers have largely ignored the inside linebacker spot early in drafts for years now. And just how much Green Bay values that position is debatable.
If the Packers surprise many and make a play for a Round 1 inside linebacker, Bolton could be an immediate difference maker. He’s a tackling machine, smart as a whip and could be an anchor inside for a decade.
THEY SAID IT
Bolton said: “I feel like I can play in the NFL and be a high-caliber player. So it’s about proving myself right every day, believing in myself and trying to get myself in the best situation possible.”
Missouri coach Eli Drinkwitz on Bolton: “I’m so impressed with his life off the field as on the field. He shows up on time, 3.4 GPA, great manners, parents raised him the right way.”
Bolton said: “It would be a great experience to be a first-round pick. But at the end of the day, once you go and put the logo on your helmet, no one really cares where you’re picked. It’s about production at that point.”