What to expect from new KC Chiefs LB Nick Bolton

COLUMBIA, MO - OCTOBER 5: Linebacker Nick Bolton #32 of the Missouri Tigers in action against the Troy Trojans at Memorial Stadium on October 5, 2019 in Columbia, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
COLUMBIA, MO - OCTOBER 5: Linebacker Nick Bolton #32 of the Missouri Tigers in action against the Troy Trojans at Memorial Stadium on October 5, 2019 in Columbia, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images) /

We took a look at the tape and assessed the selection of each pick that the Chiefs made in the draft. Here is what to expect from Missouri LB Nick Bolton.

The K.C. Chiefs made many local fans happy when they drafted Nick Bolton. The former Missouri linebacker amassed high praise from teammates and coaches as a leader on and off of the field. Some fans met the pick with criticism due to the fact that they viewed him as a MIKE linebacker like Anthony Hitchens and did not see the need to spend that kind of draft capital. We are not here to talk about positional value. Rather, we are going to get into the nuts and bolts of Bolton as a player.

Bolton provides the potential for a starting-caliber linebacker for the foreseeable future. With great instincts and downhill speed. Bolton has very good hitting ability a knack for finding the football. Here is what we see in the tape.


Bolton was considered by many to be in the top echelon of off-ball linebackers in the 2021 NFL draft. As the NFL evolves into a passing league, some question the value of run-stuffing linebacker but K.C. capitalized on his perceived value.

In two years of play at Missouri, Bolton earned first-team All-SEC honors both seasons. In 2020, he earned recognition as a second-team All-American. After finishing the 2020 season, Bolton’s stat line looked as follows: 95 tackles, 8 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, and 5 pass breakups.

Bolton’s downhill style of play

In watching Bolton’s games against Alabama, LSU, and Georgia, there are a few things that leap off of the screen about Nick Bolton. One of the most apparent things that we can see is his instincts against the run. While Bolton is not lightning fast like Derrick Johnson, he is very good in his timing and ability to find an opening.

On this play, you can see that the Crimson Tide is hoping to run a misdirection counter play. The guards both pull in an effort to clear space for the running back. While the quarterback’s eyes drift to his right toward a receiver, Bolton is unphased. He patiently tracks down the line and finds an opening to take down the ball carrier. Making a great read and great tackle, Nick Bolton blows the play up.

The Chiefs will likely be looking for Bolton to take over the MIKE linebacker position after Anthony Hitchens leaves Kansas City in the future. It is clear to see how a comparison between Hitchens and Bolton can be made from this aspect of their respective play styles. The downhill playing style and strong instincts are certainly comparable. However, the Chiefs see Bolton’s burst at the line of scrimmage and are likely hoping for more quickness attacking the line of scrimmage in the future.

Bolton’s blitzing ability

The Missouri Tigers are not shy about blitzing their linebackers, and. Bolton looks very comfortable when filling this role.

Watching this play, you will see Bolton get a good jump on a blitz and run right by the offensive lineman. Although he overruns the play a bit and the quarterback is able to step up in the pocket, Bolton is very quick to recover. He changes direction back upfield and is ready for pursuit immediately. The Tigers liked to blitz but good receivers would make them pay for it by getting open quickly from time to time. To me, his ability to blitz is an underrated part of his game that has been overlooked due to inconsistent coverage on the back end.

It is unclear whether Bolton will be a three-down linebacker, but Steve Spagnuolo has to be excited about Bolton’s ability to get after the quarterback from time to time. The Chiefs love to mix up their blitzing strategy and enjoy having versatility in that area. Bolton adds a new wrinkle to the defense.

Bolton’s potential in coverage

Nick Bolton has never been touted as a great coverage guy, but there is certainly room to grown in this facet of his game. Anyone who has watched football knows how often the first tackler misses or overruns a pass on an out route. Bolton is disciplined in his approach to coverage and this is apparent when you watch the tape.

On this play, you are not going to find a flashy pick-six or pass deflection. Instead you are going to see good fundamentals when it comes to covering receivers on underneath routes. Bolton knows where the receiver is headed as soon as the ball is snapped and tracks the receiver all the way to the sideline. While the ball should have been out of the quarterback’s hands quicker, the open-field tackling and trailing coverage of Bolton is still notable.

The Tigers did not seem to ask a ton from Bolton in coverage, but that does not mean that he did not show good things when it was asked of him. It does not seem like the strength of his game currently but you can see where his new positional coach—linebackers coach Matt House—might be thrilled with the upside to that part of his game.

Bottom Line:

The Chiefs have a couple of different angles that they could take with Nick Bolton. As Brett Veach stated, they are happy with his ability to fill different roles at linebacker. They can wait and see where he best fits and put him there. He appears to be the succession plan for Anthony Hitchens at the MIKE position, but it is certainly possible that the Chiefs put him in a role alongside Hitchens and Willie Gay Jr.

Veach loves to swing for the fences in many of his draft picks, but in this instance, it appears as though he liked Nick Bolton’s ability as a plug-and-play guy with just a little bit of upside. He will likely never be a home run/Hall of Fame type player, but could certainly be a double/Pro Bowl type player at some point in his career.

dark. Next. What the NFL Draft taught us about Brett Veach