It’s finally draft day!
If you’re an Iowa Hawkeye fan, you know what the most likely entails; a really talented former Hawkeye will inevitably end up falling down the board because he doesn’t fit the exact prototype teams are looking for in that player’s specific position. That’s the exact case for former Hawkeye center, Tyler Linderbaum.
Looking at Linderbaum through the scope of a scale and measuring stick, sure, his sub-300-pound frame and lack of arm length typecast him as a true center – if even that. It’s also true that modern day NFL franchises yearn for interior offensive lineman who can be versatile if need be because the depth offensive throughout the NFL is admittedly horrible and attrition at the position is absolutely prevalent.
That said, you want to know what’s also true? The guys in the NFL whose primary value is versatility are typically guys who have failed to dominate a position.
There’s a reason why the Kansas Chiefs aren’t asking Creed Humphrey to move over to guard. There’s a reason why the Dallas Cowboys never asked Travis Frederick to play guard. And there’s a reason why the Los Angeles Chargers just paid Corey Linsley $62.5 million last offseason to exclusively play center. In college, all of those guys had stints playing guard and while draft evaluations were being conducted, each player received the label of having “potential versatility.” That said, the thought would never cross the mind of the coaching staff to move any of those guys to guard because all three of them were and are pretty damn good at what they do.
That’s the case for Linderbaum.
The film is obvious, Linderbaum is an athletic specimen who plays with great technique in pass protection. Whether that’s anchoring against bull rushes, feeling out stunts or picking oncoming blitzers. In addition, Linderbaum attacks well with his hands while transitioning to the second level and while effectively performing reach blocks. Say what you want about his size, but the reps Linderbaum has put on tape translate to the NFL game.
Having been an NFL Draft evaluator since 2013, Linderbaum is, without question, the best center prospect I’ve evaluated in that span of time. With Linderbaum, it goes beyond athleticism and technical prowess, as his innate ability to work clean angles, squarely attack second level defenders and time up his punches in a tight space are as precise and consistent as you’ll find from even the top NFL centers who have come through the NFL over the past two decades.
"On most zone runs if the play stays frontside it'll be a good run, when plays bend to the backside, those are HOME RUNS."— Brandon Thorn (@BrandonThornNFL) April 27, 2022
- @SaturdayJeff on Linderbaum's special ability to elevate a run game.
Full film room: https://t.co/J7WEs5Zvzx pic.twitter.com/en9TquITnd
To come full circle, yes, Linderbaum will not provide the same value as someone like Zach Martin, who has shown to be an incredibly talented and versatile interior player at every interior position. However, Martin is the outlier in the NFL game. Every team wants someone like Martin on their offensive line, but it isn’t realistic. You know what is realistic? By the time Linderbaum enters the NFL, he’ll be a top 10 center in the league and by year two, I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s firmly cemented as a top five player at the position.
If an NFL team decides they want to pass on a cornerstone player due to a lack of versatility, well, that’ll be for them to inevitably end up regretting later.
Regardless, even if a draft day slide does end up being the case for Linderbaum, he’ll most likely still be a day one pick and when he gets his chance to perform on the field, there’ll be zero doubt.