From the start of the 2022 NFL Draft cycle, Tyler Linderbaum has been viewed as the top center in the class. Since the turn of the century, the Iowa Hawkeyes have become a consistent offensive line conveyor belt to the NFL. They’ve had multiple offensive tackles selected in the first round but no first-round center since Dick Woodard in 1948. Does Linderbaum have the scouting report to overcome positional value and become a first-round selection in the 2022 NFL Draft?
Tyler Linderbaum NFL Draft Profile
- Position: Center
- School: Iowa
- Current Year: Redshirt Junior
- Height: 6’2 1/8″
- Weight: 296 pounds
- Wingspan: 75 5/8″
- Arm: 31 1/8″
- Hand: 10″
Tyler Linderbaum Scouting Report
Linderbaum has received recognition as the best center in the 2022 NFL Draft. In a center class that is perhaps one of the weakest positional groups in this year’s draft, that isn’t much of a statement. However, Linderbaum has also been anointed as one of the top players in the class. What is it about the Iowa center that makes him such an exceptional talent?
The first thing that stands out about Linderbaum when you turn on the tape is his athleticism. He explodes out of his stance with exceptional fluidity. The on-tape explosion was verified during testing with a 32.5″ vertical and 9’2″ broad jump. Once he’s out of his stance, he showcases excellent footwork, moving with an impressive lightness for a near-300-pound player.
Linderbaum gets out to the second level exceptionally well in the run game, easily outpacing his compatriots on the offensive line. For a guy who is listed at 296 pounds, he demonstrates phenomenal play speed. Watch Tyler Goodson break downfield for a long run and you’ll often see the Iowa center in close company.
Whether you are an offensive line expert or an untrained eye, the other thing that stands out is Linderbaum’s competitive toughness. The Iowa C plays hards on every single play. He looks to finish his opponent on every snap, leading to some impressive takedowns away from the action.
Football intelligence and an impressive understanding of leverage
Linderbaum showcases impressive football intelligence. The Iowa center has showcased the ability to navigate combo blocks. Furthermore, he routinely picks up unblocked pass rushers and constantly has his head on a swivel looking for work.
Despite being on the slim side at 296 pounds, Linderbaum demonstrates impressive grip strength. Although he may lack the arm length beloved by the NFL, he’s able to maintain blocks even against longer defensive opponents. In addition to grip strength, the Iowa center uses his footwork, body control, and lower body strength to provide a decent anchor in pass protection.
Linderbaum’s strength and wrestling background help him to move people in the ground game. Furthermore, he attacks well with his hands and demonstrates a good understanding of hand placement.
Linderbaum has proven to be a reliable snapper of the ball in his short career as the starting center for Iowa. There wasn’t a single bad snap or fumbled exchange when the quarterback takes the ball under center in the games studied. This is even more impressive when considering that Linderbaum worked with multiple quarterbacks during his time as Iowa’s center.
Areas for improvement
Although Linderbaum is considered the top center in the 2022 NFL Draft class, his scouting report still comes with some areas for improvement. Furthermore, there are some limitations that could cloud his potential for development at the NFL level.
While Linderbaum demonstrates some decent play strength, he could seek to add a little extra muscle mass. Weighing in under 300 pounds, he may be considered undersized by the NFL. His 31 1/8″ arms may also be viewed on the small side by NFL teams.
With the size limitations and exposure to pure zone schemes at the collegiate level, Linderbaum may be seen as scheme limited in the NFL. It seems unlikely that a team running a power-run scheme will be willing to take a chance on Linderbaum in the 2022 NFL Draft.
While Linderbaum has made strides as a technician, there are some improvements to be made here. He relies on a two-handed punch. He’ll need to develop the ability to play with independent hands to maximize his effectiveness in the NFL.
Linderbaum’s Player Profile
Linderbaum was the epitome of a do-it-all high school athlete. While attending his hometown high school in Solon, Iowa, Linderbaum took part in five sports. Quite frankly, to say he took part is doing him a disservice. Linderbaum was an accomplished baseball player, went 53-10 as a wrestler, and he threw 54 feet in the shot put. Linderbaum didn’t just participate, he participated at a high level in every sport.
On the football field, however, he excelled. Like most high school players, Linderbaum played both sides of the ball. As a sophomore for Solon, he racked up 27.5 tackles, 6 tackles for loss, and 4 sacks. During his junior year, he contributed 44 tackles, 7 tackles for loss, and 3 sacks as Solon won the district title.
Linderbaum earned first-team All-State and District honors as an offensive lineman while being named the District Defensive MVP. Although he was named the second-best player in Iowa by 247 Sports, the three-star recruit was only ranked as the 28th defensive tackle in the 2018 recruiting class. Linderbaum earned an early offer from Iowa State and held interest from Minnesota.
However, only one team held his heart. Linderbaum committed to the Hawkeyes ahead of a senior season where he led Solon to another district title as team captain. He once again earned District Defensive MVP honors, was named to the All-Iowa Elite Football Team, and became the first player from Solon to go to the US Army All-American Bowl.
Linderbaum’s career at Iowa
Having been recruited as a defensive tackle despite his ability to play both ways, Linderbaum saw limited opportunity as a true freshman in 2018. The Hawkeyes were stacked with talent on the defensive line. While the environment offered the young offensive lineman valuable opportunity to learn, he saw action in just two games — Northern Illinois and Illinois — before taking a redshirt.
During practices for the Outback Bowl that concluded Iowa’s 2018 season, Linderbaum took reps at center. Impressing the coaches with his insane athleticism and innate understanding of leverage gained during his high school wrestling career, Linderbaum earned the starting role for the 2019 season.
Linderbaum made 13 starts at center for Iowa in his redshirt-freshman season. The Hawkeyes went 10-3 and defeated USC in the Holiday Bowl. In his first season playing center at the college level, Linderbaum received an honorable mention for the All-Big Ten team from both the media and the conference’s coaches.
Despite the disruption of the 2020 college football season and adjusting to a new quarterback, Linderbaum emerged as a leader on the offensive line. His personal development was rewarded with first-team All-Big Ten honors and first-team All-American honors by multiple media outlets. Additionally, Linderbaum was named as a finalist for the prestigious Rimington Trophy.
Linderbaum’s NFL Draft ascension
While the personal accolades were impressive, Linderbaum’s performances had a profound impact on the Iowa offense. During the 2019 season, they allowed 1.77 sacks per game, ranking 44th in the nation. One year later, despite losing Tristan Wirfs, they allowed just 1.38 sacks and ranked 21st. With Linderbaum paving the way, the ground game grew from 137.6 yards per game in 2019 to 171.0 yards on average in 2020.
Although he could have declared for the NFL Draft following that impressive season, Linderbaum opted to return for one more campaign with the Hawkeyes. In doing so, he earned early recognition as one of the top centers in the 2022 NFL Draft class.
Linderbaum lived up to expectations in his redshirt-junior season. Earning the Rimington Trophy as the nation’s top center, Linderbaum also earned consensus All-American recognition. Furthermore, the Iowa center was named the Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year. The success of the season set Linderbaum up for an early selection in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Yet, while being one of the top 30 players on Pro Football Network’s Top 300 Consensus Big Board, Linderbaum may still slip out of the first round in Las Vegas. As reported by PFN Chief Draft Analyst Tony Pauline on March 29, “questions about his strength and power” plus positional value may impact where the Iowa center is ultimately selected in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Tony Pauline’s scouting report on Tyler Linderbaum
Positives: Exciting young center prospect with a large upside. Fundamentally sound, bends his knees, and consistently gets leverage on opponents. Exceptionally quick off the snap, stays square, and uses his hands very effectively. Keeps his head on a swivel, stays patient in pass protection, and works well with teammates.
Keeps his feet moving, works to block as many defenders as possible on a single snap, and shows outstanding vision. Fires out to the second level, moves well on his feet, and shows the ability to hit a moving target. Slides in space, blocks with balance, and keeps his feet moving.
Negatives: Overextends into run blocks on occasion. Does a lot of clutching and grabbing against bigger opponents. Gets run over at times. Struggles finishing blocks.
Analysis: While Linderbaum is the apple of many in the draft world’s eye, he’s an incomplete center who must get stronger and finish his game. His explosion and quickness off the snap give him a decided advantage, but Linderbaum struggles handling big, mauling opponents.
He’s a zone-blocking lineman who should only improve as he physically matures and adds bulk to his frame. In my opinion, Linderbaum is not worth an early first-round selection.