The Kansas City Chiefs needed to upgrade the linebacker position heading into 2021 and they did just that when they drafted Nick Bolton in the second round of the NFL Draft.
Bolton became an immediate starter and proved himself to be a key piece on defense over the course of 20 games (including playoffs). The Chiefs backed this up when they named him the team’s top rookie a few days ago.
As it turns out, there are some numbers that back up Bolton and his solid season, as well.
Bolton’s total tackle mark puts him in good company
And it bodes well for his future, based off the past.
Bolton finished the regular season with 112 total tackles, which is the highest rookie total in team history since tackles became an official stat in 1987. Yes, Bolton finished with more total tackles than Chiefs greats Derrick Thomas and Derrick Johnson.
The 112 tackles were the most out of all the other linebackers in his draft class. So were his 70 solo tackles. The 17th game didn’t give him an extra edge, either. The Derricks averaged exactly six tackles per game while Bolton averaged 6.5 tackles per game.
Since 1987, 53% of rookies (19/36) with at least 112 total tackles went on to make at least one Pro Bowl in their career. 12 of those 19 were named first-team All-Pro at some point, as well.
Every player is obviously different, but I’m sure it’s hard to find a Chiefs fan that’s not excited about what Bolton’s future holds.
He was an extremely sure tackler
Per Pro Football Focus, Bolton’s 5.6% missed tackle rate was the lowest among all rookies with at least 554 total snaps. It was also the third-lowest rate among all qualifying linebackers in the NFL, per PFF.
Bolton’s tackling prowess was well-known and charted entering the draft, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that he excelled in this area. At the same time, you always like to see players play to their strengths.
Bolton did just that in 2021.
His 86-yard touchdown off a fumble recovery is a one-of-a-kind play
Only seven rookies have returned a fumble for 80-yards or more since 1945, when the NFL first started keeping track of fumble return yards. That number includes Bolton’s 86-yard fumble return for a touchdown, which is the fifth-longest return for a rookie in NFL history, as well.
But the best part about the play is it won the game for the Chiefs. The Denver Broncos were up, 21-20, with a little over seven minutes left in the game. Drew Lock had the offense at the Chiefs’ 9, so the Broncos were in great shape to go up at least three more points.
But instead, an unblocked Melvin Ingram comes flying into the backfield and completely destroys Melvin Gordon as soon as Gordon receives the ball, which creates the fumble.
Bolton is right there on the spot to pick it up.
He doesn’t just stop there, though. Bolton’s able to make a great play by spinning out of Lock’s attempted tackle and the rest is history. The Chiefs went up 26-21 as Bolton eventually entered the end zone.
The Chiefs went on to win the season finale, 28-24. Bolton finished the game with six total tackles on top of the game-winning fumble recovery.
In case you forgot or haven’t seen it, you can check it out below:
THE TACKLE FOR LOSS! THE FUMBLE! THE FUMBLE RECOVERY BY NICK BOLTON FOR THE DEFENSIVE TD!— KLIQbait Media (@KliqbaitMedia) January 9, 2022
The Chiefs just inflated all the momentum that was on the Broncos side! #KCvsDEN #NFL pic.twitter.com/riN5ONzMA6
Featured image via-Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports