If the Denver Broncos are looking to add some inside linebacker talent, then Nick Bolton might be the guy they should give a long look at in the 2021 NFL Draft.
The Denver Broncos used free agency to snap their defense back into a championship-type form on paper, but one position group they still need to look at is the inside linebacker position. They have two solid starters in Alexander Johnson and Josey Jewell, but they will struggle to cover the elite tight ends Denver will face in the AFC West in 2021.
One guy that could fit that type of mold and still be strong in run support would be Nick Bolton out of Missouri.
Nick Bolton — Linebacker — Missouri
Height: 6’0” Weight: 237 lbs.
Bench Press: 24 | Arm Length: 31 7/8” | Hands: 10 3/8”
40 Yard Dash: 4.59 | 3 Cone Drill: 7.40 | 20 Yard Shuttle: 4.50
Draft Projection: Second Round
- Excellent short range burst
- Solid between the tackle instincts
- Good in zone coverage
- Solid enough in man coverage to be an every down linebacker
- Plays with wild abandon in the run game
- Small size leads to some issues with form tackling
- Top end speed an issue in longer pursuits
- Poor angles at the second level
Why he fits
Bolton would immediately help resolve a long-standing issue with this Broncos defense dating back to even their Super Bowl title run, which is coverage issues against opposing tight ends and running backs. Bolton has outstanding instincts in zone coverage and has held up well in man coverage. That would provide an immediate upgrade to the inside linebacker position here.
His closest comp to me would be Danny Trevathan. He is faster (4.6 vs 4.75 40 times) and stronger (24 vs 18 bench) with instincts every bit as good coming out of college as Trevathan had.
Why he doesn’t fit
The issue here might be value. While Bolton added five pounds by his Pro Day to get his weight up to 237, he is still going to face issues with being overpowered in the run game at times. I feel like that makes him a luxury pick if the Broncos were to target him early in the second round. However, if they traded back to the late second or if Bolton lasted to the their third round pick, he would then be a fairly good value pick at that point.
If Bolton were to somehow fall into the third round, then I would love to see the Broncos snatch him up. His size is a concern, but that concern goes away for me if Denver is sitting there with him on the board with their third round pick. He would be an excellent addition to help shore up coverage issues from the inside linebacker position.
He is good enough to go much earlier, so I would rate this outcome as highly unlikely. The Broncos have depth issues elsewhere that they will likely be looking at with their second round pick anyway, but you never know…