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NFL Draft Film Breakdown: Iowa Center Tyler Linderbaum Shines, Despite Size Concerns

The 21-year-old might be the top interior offensive lineman in the draft.

Iowa center Tyler Linderbaum jumps off the screen when you watch him. The 2021 Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year isn't a physically imposing player at 6-2, 296 pounds. 

He's successful because of his movement ability and how Iowa used him. Linderbaum is currently projected to go somewhere around the 12th pick in the draft by most experts, but Dane Brugler has him falling all the way to the Bengals at 31. If he is selected in the first round, he'll become the first center selected in round one that weighs less than 300 pounds. Even with his low weight taken into consideration, he is pretty unanimously listed as the best interior offensive lineman in this class and for good reason. 

Let's watch the film and get a closer look at what makes Linderbaum unique.

Where He Excels

  • The trait that really pops off of the film with Linderbaum is his movement ability and first step. This quickness allows him to snap and pull or reach 3 techniques depending on the play. This is something he does at an elite level.
  • The next ability that stood out to me is how well he works combination blocks. He has a fantastic feel for exactly when he needs to come off of a combo to go to the second level so that he can help to get the maximum amount of displacement and help his teammates. This is a pretty fun combination with his movement ability.
  • He has a nastiness to him and is always looking to finish his blocks. He is a tone setter in the run game despite his small stature. For fans who like to see their offensive lineman putting other guys into the ground, he is for you.
  • He is a flexible player and has the ability to flip his hips to seal defenders. His body control and flexibility allow him to reach and seal any defender. Even while fully on the move. This is where his wrestling background helps him shine.
  • Linderbaum does a nice job of picking up stunts and late blitzers. He is a smart center who is aware of what defenses are trying to do. He’s a quick processor post snap and I didn't see anything that was concerning pre-snap.
  • He's quick to drop into his anchor against opponents trying to bullrush him. He also has pretty good recovery technique, and good grip strength.

Areas of Concern

  • He is a bit of a leaner. This has led to some ugly reps where defenders take advantage of it. In general he does a pretty good job of keeping his head back, but he does get caught leaning on occasion. This is something that is especially concerning after his arms measured at 31.125 inches, which is historically short for an offensive lineman. 
  • To go with the leaning, he misses at the second level because of it. It seems as if he gets too excited to bully these smaller players and they can get the best of him with quick movement ability.
  • He’s small. If he can put on about 5-10 pounds that would do wonders for him. He is stronger than 296 pounds would seem, but he has difficulty moving players in the run game when solo blocking. Can also take some blowback before dropping in pass pro and his small weight makes him exclusively a center.

Overall Thoughts

Linderbaum is a very talented center who overcomes lackluster size with elite movement ability and a keen understanding of how to play the position.

In pass protection, he gains depth on pass sets when he needs to and can recover very well. He also is a smart player both pre and post snap that can recognize what the defense is trying to do with stunts, twists, and blitzes. He is susceptible to overwhelmingly powerful, head up nose tackles as you would expect, but only if he doesn’t get help.

In the run game, his movement ability really shines. His first step and initial burst are at an elite level. He should be able to be one of the rare centers who can snap and reach 3 techniques with ease. He is primed for a zone system with his keen understanding of combination blocks and knowing just when to come off of them to the second level. Add in his body control and flexibility and you have what should become a fantastic run blocking center, despite his size. If he can add a little more weight to his frame and have a coach real him in about the leaning, he could really be a special player.

Scheme Fit

He would fit best in a wide zone run scheme where he can be used as a rare chess piece that can reach any defensive tackle. Preferably, he would not have to pass set one on one against head up nose tackles too often with some of the boot action off of it. His athleticism also makes for a player who can really do damage on screens as well. He could also snap and pull on pin-pull plays, but he is at his best when he is reach blocking or combination blocking in wide zone.


Middle of the First Round

NFL Comparison

Mitch Morse (Buffalo Bills)

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