Updated: Apr 19, 2021
By Adam Aniba
Draft Prospect Spotlight; Nick Bolton
As Washington heads into the offseason as defending NFC East champions, the focus on defense should be finding the centerpiece MIKE linebacker that has been coveted by Ron Rivera. Defensive Coordinator Jack Del Rio was able to turn a bottom of the league defensive unit in 2019 to a top 5 ranked defensive unit in 2020. A lot of the team's success is attributed to the play of Montez Sweat and DROA Chase Young along with a stout defensive line. Although the unit had a dramatic turnaround in 2020 against teams such as the Rams, Cardinals and Ravens, Washington's defensive unit fell flat.
With the addition of FA William Jackson III, the defensive backfield, which was once a weakness, could now be a strength. Now the task of finding a MLB begins. The linebacker play in 2020 was up and down. Stand out, second year, linebacker Cole Holcomb dealt with injury setbacks early but came on strong toward the end of the season. Next to Holcomb, Jon Bostic made a few key plays during the season but the journeyman seems better suited as a backup at this point. Finding a MIKE linebacker that can be effective against the run, but more importantly excel in coverage, is imperative.
In this installment of Draft Prospect Spotlight, we take a look at Mizzou linebacker Nick Bolton who, when all is said and done, could end up being one the best MLB's in the class.
This prospect evaluation includes a player review by Burgundy and Gold Report Special Contributor, Paul Crampton, who feels Nick Bolton is the best MLB in the 2021 Draft class.
5'11" 237 lbs | MLB| Ole Miss
Univ of Missouri
1st Round Grade
Wingspan: 76 1/4 inches
Arm length: 31 7/8 inches
Hand size: 10 3/8 inches
Career Stats (32 games) 220 TAK (139 solo), 25 TFL, 4.0 sacks, 2 INT's, 1 TD, 12 PD and 1 FR
2020 (10 games) 95 TAK (52 solo), 8.0 TFL, 2 sacks, 5 PD and 1 FR
Bolton's Pro Day
Nick Bolton gained many fans around the country for his performance against Alabama and showed that he could hang with the big boys, stopping Tide star running back Najee Harris in his tracks on multiple plays, most notably in the Tigers' red zone. The MLB checked off all the boxes during his Pro Day, and at 5'11" 237 lbs, he exploded off the line, clocking a 4.59 sec and 4.60 sec in his first two forty-yard-dash attempts. He added to his impressive forty time by clocking a 4.50 second Short Shuttle and registered a 7.40 second 3-Cone time. He also displayed impressive explosiveness and strength with a 32.0" Vertical Jump, 9 feet 7" Broad Jump and put up 24 reps in the Bench Press.
Tale of the Tape
Instincts and ability to drop into coverage
Disciplined eyes are always focused on the ball
Deceptive speed and understands pursuit angles
Displays the ability to redirect and chase the ball carrier effectively if out of position
Excellent in pursuit and will be the last player to stop on the whistle
Displays the ability to disengage quickly when offensive lineman or tight ends get grabby
Won't get lost in the wash and effective when lining up on the edge
Excellent wrap-up-tackler and doesn't go for the knockout blow
Paul Crampton's Review
**Best all around LB**
* Led the SEC in tackles 2019
* Sees it and hits it
* Recognizes plays quickly and then brings a punch when he tackles
* Good in pass coverage while excelling in zone assigments; dropping into
coverage appears effortless
* His ability to chase down ball carriers is second to none
* Nonstop motor
*Impressive athlete with a high football IQ
Fit in Washington
With a weapon such as Nick Bolton, Defensive Coordinator, Jack Del Rio, would have the liberty to play him close to the line, pre-snap and drop him into coverage. Opposing teams have feasted on Washington's linebackers, especially when they have faced teams that boast elite pass catching tight ends. Bolton is an enforcer and welcomes contact, in that respect facing NFL tight ends will be a welcomed challenge.
At #19 a number of blue chip prospects could fall to Washington and, of course multiple scenarios could impact the selection. One thing that isn't debatable is that Washington needs more than just Cole Holcomb and more bargain bin signings at linebacker. Pairing Nick Bolton with Cole Holcomb and allowing the Mizzou linebacker to be the MIKE of the defense, could be the piece that solidifies the team's front seven. It'll be up for debate between fans if Washington should draft yet another first round defender, but Bolton is the total package.
*You can follow Burgundy and Gold Report Special Contributor Paul Crampton on Twitter @PDC1010
*Draft grades cross referenced with TDN grades