Like wide receiver, inside linebacker isn’t a position the Green Bay Packers typically target early in the draft.
But maybe they should.
Watching the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ defense dominate throughout the playoffs, one player who repeatedly stood out was Devin White, a second-team All-Pro in only his second season. White was the fifth overall pick for a reason and the Packers don’t have the luxury of picking that high, but linebacker is a position they’ve not prioritized for a long time.
Perhaps the hire of Joe Barry as defensive coordinator, a linebackers coach for much of his NFL career, will change that.
When looking at positions in need of upgrading on defense, No. 2 cornerback sticks out. Defensive line depth is also important. Possibly even edge rusher if Preston Smith is released. But inside linebacker is right there with them.
Rookies Krys Barnes and Kamal Martin both showed potential but the Packers have lacked a star inside linebacker for quite some time.
Missouri’s Nick Bolton has the potential to become that player in the middle of the defense.
NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah ranked the top 50 players in this year’s draft class and has Bolton at No. 29. Interestingly, the Packers pick 29th in the draft. So the value would be about right.
Jeremiah wrote that Bolton has “excellent speed and explosiveness”. He noted that he needs to get better in zone coverage, but if he can achieve that, Bolton has the potential to become a “top-tier starter at the next level”.
It’s high praise for the potential first-round pick and highlights why he could become a difference-maker in Joe Barry’s defense. In three years at Missouri, Bolton made 220 tackles, 17.5 tackles for loss, four sacks, two interceptions (one a touchdown), and 12 pass defenses.
If the Packers are looking for a defensive player who could make an immediate difference as a starter, Bolton could be a great choice.