It seems as if for the better part of the last five to six years, there are few offensive linemen in the NFL who get overlooked more than Jacksonville Jaguars center Brandon Linder. Linemen in general never get their due, but Linder specifically has been one of the best at his position for several seasons.
It appears as if a tide may be changing, however; or at least that Linder is more respected by those in the know than by casual fans. Earlier this offseason, Linder was tabbed by Pro Football Focus as the team's most underrated player, and now Linder has found himself on another praise-heavy list.
In a poll by ESPN of 'more than 50 league executives, coaches, scouts', Linder was named just outside the top-10 interior offensive linemen entering the 2020 season, earning an honorable mention distinction. In ESPN's series of polls of NFL circles of the top players at each position, Linder is one of just two Jaguars to crack a list thus far (defensive end Yannick Ngakoue was an honorable mention at edge rusher).
"Length, wins at point of attack, can create movement without a double-team and there's a craftiness about him," a veteran NFL defensive assistant told ESPN.
Four centers (Rodney Hudson, Jason Kelce, Ryan Kelly and Maurkice Pouncey) all made the top-10, meaning members of the NFL likely have Linder close to the top-5 when it comes to NFL centers.
"Playing on a contract worth over $50 million in total, it’s clear that the Jaguars recognize the value Linder has provided. But he’s still a player you don’t hear about often in conversations about the league’s top interior offensive linemen," PFF wrote earlier this offseason. "Since entering the league in 2014, Linder ranks 11th among qualifying guards and centers in overall grade, and he ranks fourth among centers since taking over the starting job there in 2016, trailing only Jason Kelce, Alex Mack and Travis Frederick. That looks like a resume that is deserving of at least one Pro Bowl appearance to me."
Linder has been the anchor of Jacksonville's offensive line since they selected him in the third round of the 2014 NFL Draft, and it is hard to call him underrated in Jacksonville considering those within the franchise know just how important he is. Originally a guard, Linder moved to center full-time in 2016 and since has been one of the best centers in the entire AFC thanks to his consistency as both a run and pass blocker.
Linder has been seen as one of the core pieces to Jacksonville's roster for the last several years, a big reason he earned a large contract extension before his rookie contract expired. As a result, he has been named an offensive captain for the last several years. In his six seasons with the Jaguars, he has appeared and started in 70 regular season games and three postseason games,
2019 was one of Linder's better seasons with the Jaguars despite the team and offensive as a whole struggling mightily through a 6-10 campaign. Linder played 16 games for the first time in his NFL career and brought consistency and impact blocking to the middle of an otherwise average offensive line.
"He’s having a good year. He’s probably one of the brighter sports of the team in a bad situation [and] not playing well, but he’s actually been playing well," head coach Doug Marrone said toward the end of last season.
"Actually, I think recently what you’ve seen is his play has actually gotten better, so he’s finishing stronger and that’s what you want to do. You want to start strong and finish stronger, so I think he’s doing a very good job of that. He’s done a good job of maintaining his body during the year. Last year he’s always been nicked up and hurt, but he’s been pretty consistent this year and I think he’s done a really good job of managing himself and playing well.”