Iowa’s Tyler Linderbaum is in contention for the best pound-for-pound athlete in this year’s NFL Draft class. He’s extremely quick and agile, and while he’s only played center in college, the Las Vegas Raiders should look into using the former Hawkeye to fill a void at guard.
C/G | Iowa | 6’2 1/8” and 296 lbs | Solon, IA | April 7th, 2000 (21.9)
Tyler Linderbaum came to Iowa as a three-star recruit and the 28th-ranked defensive tackle in the country for the 2018 class, per 247 Sports. He redshirted his first year on campus before switching sides of the ball and starting every game as a redshirt freshman, sophomore and junior at center. In the Hawkeye’s zone-heavy rushing attack with lots of man protection in the passing game, the Solon native earned PFF run-blocking grades of 79.8, 90.6 and 96.6 while allowing just 19 pressures and two sacks in three years.
- Excellent get-off and quickness to get on defenders immediately, often before they are out of their stance
- He has very quick feet to get to his set points in pass protection and does a good job of maintaining his base while working laterally on slide protections
- Aggressive in his pass sets too, he attacks the defensive lineman and takes the fight to them which helps his anchor at a lighter weight
- Recognizes blites early and has the mental alertness and athletic ability to secure an inside rusher and go pick up a blitzing linebacker
- Fast with his punch to make contact first with well-placed hands, one on the arm and the other the chest of the pass rusher, and he keeps his hands inside to avoid holding calls
- Works to rest his hands if he misses with his initial punch
- Impressive change of direction to redirect against counter moves or pick up stunts
- Very strong grip to stay engaged as a pass blocker and help him steer bull rushers a bit and slow their momentum
- Bends his knees and digs his heels into the ground pretty soon after contact to get a leverage advantage and help overcome size disadvantages
- Didn’t have many problems anchoring in college despite sacrificing size
- He has the balance and base to stay upright when he’s engaged with one rusher and another makes contact with him
- Looks for work when uncovered
- Does a good job selling his pass set on screens to get defensive linemen up the field
- In addition to his get-off as a run blocker, he’s able to lean into and gain ground with his first step while snapping the ball — shotgun or under center — to get his momentum going in the right direction and really capitalize on his initial quickness
- His footwork, initial quickness, agility and hip mobility make reaching 0-techniques easy and can even reach 2i-techniques. Also recognizes when he can’t get the edge and turns it into a drive block with the strength to ride the defensive tackle’s momentum and create cutback lanes.
- When base blocking, he uses good pad level and knee bend and keeps his feet moving through contact to help stay engaged and generate some push
- On combo blocks, he’s physical and plays with leverage to turn the defensive lineman’s shoulders as the first blocker, and he has great hand placement on the defender’s side and the leg drive to wash defensive tackles down as the second blocker
- Quick to see crashing linebackers and has the change of direction to come off combo blocks and pick them up
- Has excellent angles and speed when working up to the second level to beat the linebacker to the spot, and he shows the mental processing to recognize when linebackers and defensive linemen gap exchange to stay on his path and pick up the linemen when he otherwise would have had the backer
- He understands where the play is designed to hit when climbing and positions himself where linebackers have to either run through him or around him to get to the running back
- Good speed when pulling to get to his spot
- Displays a finishing mentality when run blocking and he can put linebackers in the ground
Areas of Improvement:
- Measured in at the NFL Combine with very short arms, 31 3/8” which is in the bottom 25 percentile for the position
- Does have a slight lean when he punches in pass pro
- He’s not a guy you can expect to win a ton of drive blocks against big 0-techniques one-on-one, that’s where his size deficiencies show up
- Lacks some strength to get a lift on bigger pass rushers to redirect their momentum
- Bigger defensive tackles will slow his feet down after contact when run blocking
- Against crashing linebackers, he has a habit of getting his head on the wrong side to allow penetration
- Needs to do a better job of breaking down before contact when blocking in space, he’ll get juked out of his shoes against linebackers and defensive backs who can use their quickness and agility to make blockers miss
NFL Mock Draft Database consensus big board rank: 14th overall, 1st round
If you’re someone who hates reading or hearing about positional value affecting a player’s draft stock, well, you might want to close your eyes or plug your ears. The last center drafted in the top 20 was Garrett Bradberry, who went 18th overall in 2019 to the Minnesota Vikings. Also, there have only been four first-round centers in the last five draft classes.
Now, Linderbaum is different and one of the best prospects at the position in recent years and could certainly break that mold. However, he’s also a scheme-specific player who would be best for a wide zone team, so a slide down into the 20s isn’t out of the realm of possibilities.
What do we need to know?
Can he anchor against NFL nose tackles? Linderbaum has plenty of skills to dig his heels in against bull rushers, but there is some doubt about if he’ll be able to overcome some of his physical shortcomings at the next level. There isn’t exactly a great track record of success for sub-300-pound centers and the same goes for short-armed ones.
Fit with the Raiders:
This is a tough one. I like Linderbaum’s game a lot and think he can be a good center in the league, but there are a lot of signs pointing him away from Las Vegas.
For one, Andre James did struggle at the beginning of the season but picked it up down the stretch, so center isn’t a pressing need. And while yes, the Raiders could put the Iowa product — or James — at guard, that would be sliding down the positional value chart even further. In that situation they’d also be asking a rookie to play a position he’s not as comfortable with or would be messing with James’ development, who is starting to turn the corner at center.
The other issue is schematic. If Josh McDaniels wants to continue to deploy a gap-heavy rushing attack as he did in New England, then Linderbaum isn’t going to be a great fit. Unless McDaniels has other plans, this would be a bit of a square peg in a round hole situation.
Watch how Tyler Linderbaum (C) is able to gain ground with his 1st step while snapping the ball & makes reaching/scooping this 0-tech look easy pic.twitter.com/O0tpVQEI3z— Matt Holder (@MHolder95) March 9, 2022
Check out this mental alertness & COD from Tyler Linderbaum:— Matt Holder (@MHolder95) March 9, 2022
-Slides left & makes sure immediate threats are taken care of
-Sees blitzing LB & trusts his OG to pick up the DT
-Redirects to help the RB & picks up blitzing LB
I don’t know many centers that can move like this, Tyler Linderbaum, working laterally, beats a blitzing LB to the gap…with time to spare pic.twitter.com/GCQiVcODG2— Matt Holder (@MHolder95) March 9, 2022
DL slants to give Tyler Linderbaum (C) some help, but even so, centers shouldn’t be able to reach 4-techniques pic.twitter.com/tuhLkWj5Qe— Matt Holder (@MHolder95) March 9, 2022
Tyler Linderbaum (C) basically blocks 3 guys here lol pic.twitter.com/dFcPaK3vum— Matt Holder (@MHolder95) March 9, 2022
DL slants making it tough for Tyler Linderbaum (C) to seal the outside but he just turns this into a drive block & rides the DT’s momentum to create a cutback lane pic.twitter.com/TcjY1ioe3T— Matt Holder (@MHolder95) March 9, 2022