DFF Draft Coverage: Nick Bolton to the Chiefs

Nick Bolton | Missouri                       5’11½ ” 237 lbs.                     3/10/2000 (Age 21)

Nick Bolton was drafted 58th overall by the Kansas City Chiefs with their first pick of the 2021 NFL Draft.

College Production

Year Games Played   Tackles   TFLs   Sacks   PDs  
2018 (FR) 10 22 1.0 1.0 0
2019 (SO) 12 107 8.5 1.0 7
2020 (JR)   10 95 8.0 2.0 5

Nick Bolton played in all 13 games as a true freshman where he recorded 22 tackles, one sack, and one TFL. He developed from promising up-and-comer to SEC defensive star in 2019, earning first-team all-conference honors after leading the league with 8.9 tackles per game (107 total, 8.5 for loss), intercepting two passes, and breaking up eight others in 12 starts. 

After leading Missouri in tackles and TFLs in his first season as a starter, Bolton built on that success as the unquestioned leader of the defense in 2020. The opportunity to play against the offensive lines and running back prospects that the SEC boasts certainly strengthens his resume.


Bolton displayed an outstanding motor and the ability to move well laterally chasing outside run plays the past few seasons. He was competent in coverage with great instincts. He has enough pop and strength to take on blocks at the next level but must improve his angles to avoid getting caught up in the wash on perimeter plays. 

Athletic Testing

One of the biggest knocks on Bolton is his lack of top-end speed. He recorded a 4.60 40-yard dash, which is adequate for an inside linebacker. Unfortunately, he performed poorly in the short shuttle at 4.50, the three-cone drill at 7.40, and only mustered a 32” vertical. Interestingly, these numbers contradict the explosiveness and suddenness Bolton shows on film. Though he may have some physical limitations, he has proven with his football IQ, processing, and instincts that he is a three-down LB. 

Draft Analysis

Rapid Reaction to Draft Capital: Above-Average

Rapid Reaction to Landing Spot: Great

JOK was selected with the 58th pick by the Kansas City Chiefs. He will compete for snaps early in the Chiefs’ LB room, and your author is interested in seeing if he can win a starting job by September. He joins established veteran Anthony Hitchens, last year’s second-round pick Willie Gay, and a slew of special teamers. However, while Gay is athletic and Hitchens is experienced, neither of them brings the big hits or “stopping ability” that Bolton does. 

Fantasy Insights

Nick Bolton plays with a style of throw-back reckless abandon that seldom players possess in the modern NFL. His play recognition, pursuit angles, and instincts will help carry him to the football and he always sends a message when he gets opposing ball carriers squared up. Bolton plays with great awareness and field recognition when dropping into zones and has shown he can make plays on the football in coverage. He’s a three-down linebacker who will make an immediate impact on special teams and will eventually become a starter.

After 2021, the Chiefs will finally have an opportunity to part ways with Hitchens and his horrendous contract. Expect to see Bolton and Gay take over as consistent producers in the Chiefs scheme for years to come. Bolton will most likely be the fourth or fifth LB to come off the board in IDP rookie drafts and will be a steal if you can get him in the fourth round of blended fantasy rookie drafts. 

Thank you for checking out DFF’s 2021 NFL Draft Coverage! Stay tuned as we break down every fantasy-relevant pick during the draft. Please consider our yearly DFF subscription, so we can continue to deliver top-notch analysis and fantasy breakdowns. 

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