Iowa center Tyler Linderbaum has had a relatively unconventional path to the NFL draft.
He was originally recruited to Iowa as a defensive tackle, where he was his high school district’s defensive MVP. However, Iowa’s coaching staff converted him to the offensive line in 2019.
Linderbaum has since thrived at the center position and is widely considered the top center in the 2022 NFL Draft. The athleticism and play strength that made him a dangerous defensive tackle certainly help, as does his background as one of the top high school wrestlers in the state of Iowa. In fact, Linderbaum has a win over fellow Iowa alum — and 2020 first round OT — Tristan Wirfs.
The New York Giants have struggled to get the center position right since parting ways with Weston Richburg in the 2018 off season. Could Linderbaum be the answer the Giants have been looking for?
Prospect: Tyler Linderbaum (65)
Games Watched: vs. Indiana (2021), vs. Penn State (2021), vs. Purdue (2021), vs. Michigan (2021)
Career Games Played: 36
2021 Games Played: 14
Best: Athleticism, play strength, competitive toughness, mental processing, versatility
Worst: Experience, size
Projection: A starting center with scheme diversity.
Iowa’s Tyler Linderbaum is an athletic, instinctive, and tough center prospect.
Linderbaum is a compact, powerful lineman with good lower body flexibility. He is able to settle into his stance with low hips and good pad level to maximize his play strength. Linderbaum has a strong wrestling background giving him an instinctive understanding of angles and leverage, as well as a natural sense of balance. He consistently fires off the ball, easily getting under the pads of opposing linemen. Linderbaum has heavy hands, allowing him to jolt defenders with a hard strike before uncoiling his hips and driving them backwards.
Linderbaum has experience in both man-gap and zone blocking schemes in Iowa’s diverse running game and executes both at a high level. He is an excellent and fluid athlete, which allows him to work off of double teams and easily climb to the second level. He also does a very good job of staying in phase in outside zone runs, easily getting defenders in his zone to flow laterally.
He is a solid technician, playing with a wide base and fitting his hands well inside of defenders’ framework. Linderbaum is also a tremendously tough blocker, working to sustain his blocks through the echo of the whistle and frequently trying to drive defenders to the ground.
Linderbaum shows a solid understanding of his offense’s blocking schemes. He executes his role well within the scheme, even when the type of block varies widely from play to play. Linderbaum also shows an almost instinctual level of field awareness. He anticipates rushers very well, occasionally picking them up without moving his head off of his primary responsibility and is capable of blocking multiple defenders on a single play.
For all the positives to Linderbaum’s game, he still only has three years at the position. His relative lack of experience at center rears its head at times on his tape. In particular, Linderbaum can occasionally miss late twists or blitzes. He can also allow his technique to break down on longer plays. Linderbuam occasionally allows his stance to narrow and knees to straighten late in long plays, which can give the advantage to defensive tackles who maintain their leverage.
Linderbaum is also undersized for the position at 6-foot-2, 296 pounds with 31-inch arms. While this doesn’t appear to be much of an issue on tape, teams with strict adherence to measurable thresholds could move him down their draft boards because of those numbers.
Overall Grade: 8.4
Iowa center Tyler Linderbaum projects as a starting center with scheme diversity at the NFL level.
As a practical matter, there isn’t a blocking scheme in the modern NFL that Linderbaum can’t execute, and he can probably execute any at a high level. He is remarkably athletic, powerful, and agile. Linderbaum has great play strength and a natural understanding of how to make use of his natural leverage.
Some teams may struggle to get past the fact that Linderbaum is undeniably undersized. However, his athleticism, explosive power, and natural leverage largely render those concerns moot on tape. Linderbaum’s leverage and power allow him to hold up well in situations where he is head-up on a true nose tackle, while his athleticism and strength make reach or slide blocks appear easy.
Linderbaum started his career at Iowa as a defensive tackle and that occasionally shows up in his game, particularly in man-gap runs. Linderbaum has a tendency to fire out of his stance low and hard, like a DT attacking a gap. That can get him out over his skis if his strike doesn’t land, but it also allows him to drive defenders yards off the ball.
Linderbaum’s inexperience as a whole is something of a double-edged sword. It could prove to be a bit of a liability as he makes the jump to seeing NFL caliber athletes and schemes on a weekly basis as a rookie. However, if he continues to develop at the rate he has over the last three years, that could be incredibly exciting. In particular, Linderbaum’s field awareness is simply rare. Not only does he have a great sense for finding work as a blocker, there are instances where he is able to anticipate and pick up blitzers in a blink without even turning his head in their direction.
All in all, Tyler Linderbaum appears to be a “developmental” player who enters the NFL with a high floor but also has a sky-high ceiling.