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Missouri’s Nick Bolton could be Chiefs’ MIKE linebacker of the future

29 Days of Draftmas continues with a local linebacker who could fit in Steve Spagnuolo’s scheme.

West Virginia v Missouri Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images

A very Merry Draftmas to you!

We continue our tradition of profiling an NFL Draft prospect every day in April, leading up to the NFL Draft on April 29th. Every day, you’ll get a prospect profile that includes how they would fit with the Kansas City Chiefs.

The NFL draft is less than two weeks away. Soon, the Chiefs will soon be on the clock and (hopefully) adding contributors to the roster. The team’s future at linebacker looks bleak, so it’s not out of the realm of possibility that it could target one in this year’s draft.

With that in mind, here’s a full write-up from this year’s edition of the 2021 KC Draft Guide, featuring a local linebacker with a high IQ and future MIKE potential.

Nick Bolton, linebacker

Missouri v Arkansas Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

6’0” | 232 lbs | Missouri

Frisco, TX

Grade (round): Third

Background: Two-year starter at Missouri. Three-star recruit. First-team All-SEC in 2019 and 2020. Second-team All-American in 2020. Father played linebacker for Louisiana Tech.

Strengths: Bolton is an explosive, dense athlete who is well built for the linebacker position. When getting downhill, he possesses terrific burst — and when attacking blockers and ball carriers, converts that to power well. This explosion also translates to his blitzing ability. Bolton does well squaring up and playing behind his pads — and when tackling, limits extra yardage from the ball carrier. He has good ankle flexion to plant and drive downhill through the gap. He takes terrific angles and doesn’t often end up behind the play. As Missouri’s MIKE linebacker, Bolton called fronts and displayed enough range to play in the middle of the field. He has a high football IQ and communicates adjustments well to his teammates. Bolton shows good body control and attacks the proper shoulders of the offensive linemen to leverage and rip through to where he’s going. Between the tackles, his gap control is top-notch — and he uses his lateral agility to poke his head in gaps, then cut back to the ball carrier for a stop.

Weaknesses: Bolton’s weaknesses largely revolve around his coverage ability. In 2020, he wasn’t often used in man coverage; he was largely a hook zone dropper — and in his zone drops, he needs to sink better when no routes develop underneath him. His route feel is weak; in man coverage, he struggled to stay in phase. Bolton tends to overpursue play-action passes and ends up being very late to pick up tight ends or running backs leaking to his side of the field. Against nimble opponents, he will sometimes load up for the tone-setting hit and then whiff. His pro day testing lacked a bit, raising some questions about his ability to play his type of game against faster NFL athletes.

How he fits with the Chiefs: Bolton’s build, high football IQ, range and block deconstruction would make him an ideal fit for any of Steve Spagnuolo’s linebacker spots. He would immediately play on base downs next to Anthony Hitchens and Willie Gay Jr. — and could ease into sub-packages as his coverage ability progresses. Going forward, Bolton would be an ideal fit at the MIKE linebacker position, giving them a strong pair of linebackers in 2022 and beyond.

Player Comp: Rashaan Evans

Fit Likelihood: High

KC Draft Guide

The 2021 edition of the KC Draft Guide is now available!

The Draft Guide provides a one-stop shop that shows how the top college prospects fit with your Kansas City Chiefs. This digital download includes detailed analysis and profiles for hundreds of prospects, player comps, scheme-fit analysis, a Chiefs draft pick trade chart, features, a mock draft and more!

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