Nik Bonnito is a 6’3”, 240 lb junior outside linebacker for the University of Oklahoma. During the 2020 season, he was the highest-graded pass rusher in the country, according to PFF. His skill set fits very nicely with the evolution of offensive football, in which athleticism and speed are becoming increasingly valuable due to the favorable rule changes for offenses, particularly in the passing game. Bonnito was used all over the field, from being the spy man on opposing quarterbacks to blitzing from the middle of the field like an inside linebacker. He was used to cover the flats a lot as well, taking advantage of his athleticism that matches up with tight ends and running backs.
Strengths: Bonnito closes in on the ball carrier with high-end acceleration. If given space or if he wins the get-off at the line of scrimmage, he can easily wreck a play using his quickness. Due to how quickly he can get off on the snap, he pressures opposing offensive linemen to also get a quick get-off before it’s too late. He creates larger gaps than normal between opposing offensive linemen due to his quickness on the edge, opening up rush lanes for his teammates. He is able to bend his body into awkward positions while rushing the passer. Blocking him requires additional range for opposing offensive tackles. The outside linebacker has quick hands and that he uses to get past offensive tackles. Due to his strengths, Bonnito plays better in space on the edge, where he can feature his quickness, agility, and acceleration to close on the football.
Weaknesses: Bonnito tends to lose leverage when not using his entire body’s force while engaged with linemen. He tends to look and wait for a play that he can make to develop first, rather than keeping a relentless motor at all times. He tends to be too casual on secondary moves against linemen, almost as if he just waits for the play to develop and then choosing where to go rather than going full steam ahead all the time. He is less effective on the interior of the defensive line, where there is more crowding between linemen and an increased reliance on brute strength to win.
Bottom Line: Nik Bonnito is one of the premier defenders in the 2022 NFL draft class. He is extremely talented at what he’s best at – rushing the passer with speed and quickness. His quick first step and ability to accelerate and close on the ball carrier are elite. Bonnito is best suited to play for a 3-4 defense. In addition to rushing the passer, his work as a spy player and covering the flats allow him to be moved around. During the 2021 season, he will look to cement his draft status as one of the best defenders in the 2022 NFL draft.
GAMES WATCHED: Florida 2020, Kansas 2020, Oklahoma State 2020, Texas 2020, Texas Tech 2020
Edited By: Rupayan “Abs” Samanta.