Mattl’s Matters: Nick Bolton

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Mattl is reviewing our draft picks, come check it out and share your thoughts!

Editor’s Note: This post is written by AG user Mattl.

With the 58th pick in the draft, the Chiefs selected Nick Bolton, linebacker from Missouri. Those of you
who were following the comments on Arrowhead Guys during the draft may recall that I was not
particularly happy with the pick. I believed (as did other commenters) that the Chiefs needed to go for a
wide receiver (or EDGE defender). I point this out only to acknowledge that I’ve come around a bit.
With that out of the way, let’s take a look at Bolton. He’s a two-time First Team All-SEC member and
also earned Second Team 2020 All-American honors, amassing 202 tackles the last two seasons (an
average of more than 9 tackles/game), including 16.5 tackles for loss. At Missouri, he was known for his
professionalism and work ethic. You will not see the word lazy or lackadaisical anywhere with regard to
him; he’s all about giving maximum effort on every play. At his pro day, he measured in at 5’11” 237 lbs
and ran the 40 in 4.59 seconds. Simply put, this is a very solidly-built man and a super-intense defender
who enjoys laying out ball carriers.

When watching Bolton’s highlights, I remember thinking, “I don’t care what his 40-yard time is. This guy
is a heat-seeking missile to the ball.” His ability in the passing game when going against the speed of NFL
receivers is a bit of a question mark, although many draft analysts have credited Bolton with being good
in zone coverage, with 15 passes defensed at Missouri.

When you watch Bolton, you see the passion that he brings to the field. I’ll concede, of course, that
passion is no substitute for elite talent and ability to cover receivers. It does, however, lead to one of the
reasons that I believe the Chiefs targeted Bolton with their highest pick.

In order to explain, let’s go back to the 2019 offseason. Coming off a defensive collapse in the AFC
Championship game, the Chiefs fired Bob Sutton and released Eric Berry and Justin Houston. They then
hired Steve Spagnuolo, signed Tyrann Mathieu as a free agent and traded a first round pick for Frank
Clark. Word quickly spread that these moves were done to help change the defensive culture of the
team. Mathieu and Clark brought a swagger and intensity (and yes, cockiness) that our defense had
been sorely lacking. Those moves paid off in a big way the last two seasons, not solely due to their play,
but also to their ability to inspire the defense. During the Chiefs Super Bowl run, numerous role-playing
defenders made their biggest plays in the games’ biggest moments. Think about Ben Niemann’s 3rd down
hit on Jimmy Garappolo in the 4th quarter of the Super Bowl, leading to the Chiefs getting the ball and a
chance to win the game; think about Kendall Fuller’s Super Bowl-sealing interception; and Tanoh
Kpassagnon’s 3rd down sack of Ryan Tannehill early in the 4th quarter of a 28-17 AFC Championship game.

These plays were NOT an accident. I believe they’re a direct result of this “swagger and intensity” that
Mathieu and Clark brought to the defense, helping to motivate other guys to step up when needed.
This leads directly to the reason why I’ve come around on the Bolton pick: I believe that Bolton will
bring a similar intensity and swagger to our defense. Mathieu and Clark’s future with the Chiefs after
the 2021 season is unknown at this point. But having a young defender who’s an alpha-leader on the
field is something that I’m willing to endorse. When the game is on the line, I want a guy like Bolton on
the field.

I’ll go on record and say that Bolton will be a starter from Day One. There will be growing pains and
missed assignments, of course. Having said that, I don’t believe we’ll see a Willie Gay situation, with
Bolton struggling to see 50% of the defensive snaps. He’s just too good. Bolton is an excellent defender
with off-the-charts passion for football; his impact will be felt throughout our defense. Consider me a
believer that Bolton will be an integral member of our 2021 Super Bowl defense.

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05/03/2021 4:40 pm
Reply to  steve_chiefs
05/03/2021 4:44 pm

He’s a vicious dog! Might have to nickname him “Ramsay”.

05/03/2021 4:36 pm

good stuff

The Chiefs as usual picked everyone but the ones I thought they would

I, as a Tigers fan, never expect a Tiger to get selected by the Chiefs. I also thought Bolton was going to be selected in the 1st round, like JOK, both fell. I agree that Bolton will bring more energy to the LB’ing corp, it is needed.

But it was the Trey Smith selection that got me excited. The Chiefs did their homework on him so I assume they did on every selection.

Severely Concussed
Severely Concussed
05/03/2021 1:47 pm

Even Skip Bayless approves

05/03/2021 1:25 pm

This guy is a heat-seeking missile. Think back on how many short-yardage situations that DJ made an impact on. I’m not saying he is DJ but he does bring the wood and is a tone-setter something our LB’s has missed since DJ left. As you say similar to the Honey Badger. I watched a lot of MU football and this guy was arguably the best defender on the field in many of their games and it isn’t like MU plays in the little league.

Last edited 11 days ago by ArrowFan
Severely Concussed
Severely Concussed
05/03/2021 12:20 pm

The next DE drafted was Basham. If we picked him instead, I think he would still be DE 4 in our rotation. Clark, Taco, Danna would all see the field at a much larger rate than the rookie. We got Kaindoh in the 4th to fill the same snaps (around 20% barring injury), and he has about the same skill level in my opinion.

Whereas with Bolton he immediately replaces Neiman as a starting linebacker and I would suspect he will play closer to 70% off the snaps by the end of the year.

Baseball has wins above replacement stats, and I think Bolton has a much higher WAR than any defensive end we could have drafted this year.

05/03/2021 10:39 am

Thanks for the effort Matt, much appreciated. This is why AG is here, discuss the team’s moves, progression or recession. I don’t recall anyone here going after the front office for any decisions in this draft. If anything we’ve probably heaped more praise on Veach than appropriate, but that’s because we love our boys.


Reply to  probablyamistake
05/03/2021 1:10 pm

Yep, I’m admittedly a blind-as-a-bat fan in a lot of ways. I’m an eternal optimist and make no apologies for it. I don’t do negative. Period. Life’s better that way. 🙂

Reply to  Mattl
05/03/2021 1:24 pm

I’m in total agreement. I try to live my life with positivity because focusing on negativity sucks and is a waste of my very limited life.

Reply to  MasterChief
05/03/2021 4:30 pm


05/03/2021 10:16 am

so you admittedly judged the pick on draft day w/o any background info … and now you’re grading the pick before the guy even gets on the field

don’t get me wrong: good write-up (BRaG or someone needs to edit the “breaks” for clarity) but … and this is just me … WE (fans) are just that, we’re fans and we do NOT run this or any other team, we have NO voice in who gets drafted or signed … no, WE just sit around and talk about crap as if we were experts (we’re not)

my strong preference is to enjoy the games as they happen and go from there … it’s worked for me since 1966 (coupla yrs before that, to be honest)

Reply to  upamtn
05/03/2021 11:55 am

I upvoted this as I tend to agree that sports team fans get ahead of ourselves at times. I too suffer from hubris on occasion… damn, just fell down again. From my experience playing hockey and lacrosse there were times I’d get pulled in by my team-mates cockiness despite my inclination simply to be ready and not take stuff for granted. I knew that one missed save could easily cost the team a win.

Having said all that, we are fans and we need to talk about this stuff and we want to hope that Bolton will be a star. It is easier to see the Bolton pick in a positive light if we also deem the Powell and to a lesser extent the Gray pick as late round gems. But who among us knows, and that is your point, Ups, it is a very reasonable and sober take. Mattl gave us a nice write-up that I enjoyed reading. There is some reason to be found in Bolton’s college ball achievements for the author’s optimism apart from being a fan of the Chiefs , let’s hope his pro development justifies this optimism.

Reply to  larch
05/03/2021 12:00 pm
Reply to  larch
05/03/2021 2:27 pm

larch: wrecked just for “hubris” … and don’t get me wrong: Bolton & Humphrey both look like possible/probable day one starters and both could be the steals of the draft and be two of the best players ever in the history of the Chiefs … but until they ARE, they AREN’T (does that make sense?) and I see no use in getting “all pumped up” for something that could turn into a HUGE letdown later

go with the flow … if they’re awesome, then AWESOME, and if not … hey, that’s life in the NFL

cheers n stuffs

Reply to  upamtn
05/03/2021 3:03 pm

Yup, I get it, cheers back atya.

Reply to  upamtn
05/03/2021 1:07 pm

Thanks, man. I loudly and frequently admit I’m nothing but an amateur fan. I get excited during the draft because I want “my guy” to be drafted, then I get disappointed when he’s not. It’s a yearly ritual for me (except in 2017, thank goodness). After the initial “adrenaline rush” of the draft dies down, it’s much easier for me to look at someone like Bolton and appreciate what he brings to the team.

Would he have been my pick? No, but I think he’s going to be a heck of an addition. I remember being devastated last year when I wanted us to draft CB Bryce Hall, then passed on him in favor of some dude I never heard of named L’Jarius Sneed. Episodes like that are why I trust Veach and Reid over my judgment. As an amateur fan, I just enjoy sharing my thoughts with the group.

Reply to  Mattl
05/03/2021 1:28 pm

Keep bringing it! Last time I checked, none of us were unbiased experts.

Reply to  MasterChief
05/03/2021 1:49 pm

And thanks for the info and insight you folks bring to AG, it helps guys like me get up to speed on draft scenarios and prospects.

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