With the close of practice on Wednesday, the K.C. Chiefs called an end to training camp for the 2021 season. From now on, the team will return to practice at Arrowhead Stadium and prepare for two more preseason games before paring down the active roster to 53 players and preparing to face the Cleveland Browns in the season opener on September 12.
With training camp properly wrapped up, it made sense for us to look back at the team’s rookie class of six draft picks this spring to see how they fared. With each pick, we’ll look at what we expected when the Chiefs first drafted them and how well each rookie seems to be adjusting so far in their first summer as a professional football player.
Some Chiefs fans were likely a bit surprised and maybe even upset when the team decided to use their first overall pick in the 2021 draft on a linebacker. After all, there were other positions of need and the team had just invested a second round pick in the previous draft in Willie Gay, Jr.
On the other hand, the player selected was well-known in the region as one of college football’s most punishing tacklers in Missouri’s Nick Bolton.
The pre-draft process raised questions about Bolton’s athleticism since other prospects had better pro day or NFL combine numbers. But game tape showed that when the pads are on, few linebackers are as instinctive and physical as Bolton and the Chiefs needed just that, not only for the short-term but in the long-term as a likely replacement for Anthony Hitchens in future seasons.
So far, Bolton looks exactly like the Chiefs hoped he would. In fact, he’s looked even better in coverage than expected. His aggressiveness led to some impressive reps against the Niners and the Chiefs look like they’re ready to give him meaningful reps with the defense from the outset.
After facing a tremendous linebacking corps in the Super Bowl loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Chiefs are putting together their own punishing pair in the middle. Bolton looks like an instant hit (and heavy hitter).