The big names like Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce, the straws that stir the drink of this KC franchise. One rookie played like a proven veteran in this primetime outing though and I’m not talking about center Creed Humphrey — who may secretly be a 10-year NFL pro in disguise.
No, this first-year piece was on the opposite side of the football and he had the best performance of his young career.
ALL the latest Chiefs news straight to your inbox! Join the Heavy on Chiefs newsletter here!
Nick Bolton for Defensive MVP in Week 15
With no Chris Jones in the lineup, linebacker Nick Bolton stepped up in a huge way. Of course, he dominated the stat sheet with 14 total tackles (10 solo) and three passes defended but the analytics on his night were even better.
According to Pro Football Focus, the rookie second-rounder was the highest-graded Chiefs defender against the Chargers, just ahead of Melvin Ingram III. The Missouri product made several game-changing plays, including this stop on fourth down.
Bolton played 78 of 79 defensive snaps and was credited with three “defensive stops” — which is a “tackle that constitutes a failure for the offense.” He also contributed one quarterback pressure (a QB hit) and one batted ball at the line of scrimmage that forced an Anthony Hitchens interception.
In coverage, the linebacker did allow five receptions off six targets but he held those conversions to 35-total yards gained. This earned a grade of 88.3 in coverage.
As for his overall grade, PFF awarded Bolton with a 90.7 which included an 83.3 tackling grade, 75.2 run defense, and 78.5 as a pass-rusher. This was the rookie’s second 80-plus mark of his inaugural campaign and his first 90-plus one.
Here was one more key impact breakup from Bolton on wide receiver Mike Williams at the goal line.
Follow the Heavy on Chiefs Facebook page, where you can weigh in on all the latest KC-related daily content, analysis, features and more!
2021 Draft Class Has Impressed
General manager Brett Veach followed the linebacker up with the aforementioned Humphrey and both look like slam dunks so far. Fourth-rounder Joshua Kaindoh has not had the same impact in year one but sixth-round guard Trey Smith has.
Tight end Noah Gray we’ll put in the ‘too early to tell’ category and obviously wide receiver Cornell Powell has been the lone disappointment, but he is currently signed to the Chiefs practice squad so there’s still time for him to adapt.
Having said that, this draft class looks very promising after the first 15 weeks of their careers and Veach should be proud of his ability to find some potential sleepers in 2021. If you add the Brown acquisition to this haul, Kansas City brought in four immediate starters with seven picks — three of which have PFF season grades of 70.0 or higher.
Bolton is actually not one of those three with a season mark of 65.2, but his steady improvement has been a pleasant sight to see for Chiefs Kingdom.