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Cowboys 2021 draft prospects: Missouri LB Nick Bolton scouting report

If the Cowboys do go linebacker early, there’s only one good option.

NCAA Football: Georgia at Missouri Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

The Cowboys will likely add some linebacker help in the upcoming draft. With Joe Thomas leaving and the uncertain status of Sean Lee, it has to be part of their current strategy. One option would take an early pick.

Name: Nick Bolton

School: Missouri

Height: 6-0

Weight: 235

Class: Junior

Position: LB

Jersey: #32

Strengths:

Extremely fast, physical, and a big hitter when coming downhill and sideline-to-sideline. Plays with tremendous explosiveness at all three levels of the field. While being undersized, nothing about Bolton’s game shows it. Bolton plays much bigger than his listed size, while using his smaller frame to knife through gaps to make tackles in the backfield. He comes downhill with fury against ball carriers and offensive linemen, and changes direction with ease in the open-field. Stonewalls ball carriers in holes with pop in his pads, and does the same to pulling linemen in the running game. Love his ability as a cover linebacker showing impressive skills in both man and zone. Read and react skills are off the charts, and his instincts improved every year. Disrupts the pocket with his ability to rush the passer. Three-down, immediate impact linebacker with blue-chip ability.

Weaknesses:

Still has some developing to do in terms of his instincts, showing far too often the ability to shoot the wrong gaps when attacking ball carriers in the backfield. Angles could improve as at times he gets caught chasing, giving up extra yards when working laterally. On the smaller side, and while it rarely hurts him, his lack of length can show up when taking on blockers. Will give up some some additional yardage due to trying to run through ball carriers, instead of going for the clean, wrap-up tackle.

Overall Summary:

While he may not be the linebacker with the best traits in the 2021 NFL Draft, he’s the one I have the most confidence in being a long-time, Pro Bowl-caliber player. Bolton’s confidence, effort, and alpha-male mentality both as a run defender and blitzer make him an extremely exciting prospect that will likely get overlooked because of his height and lack of length. With his speed and ability to cover sideline-to-sideline, Bolton’s impact as a run defender, blitzer, and the skills he offers in coverage have me very excited about his immediate impact, and ceiling as he continues to develop his instincts. Reminds me a lot of Deion Jones in Dan Quinn’s scheme in Atlanta (who was also undersized), who can cover, run & chase, and play with some downhill pop. If the Cowboys look to trade back into the first, Nick Bolton would bring an immediate impact to the Cowboys linebacker room, who has a lot of question marks heading into 2021.

Round Grade:

1st (#14 Overall)

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