The 2022 NFL Draft is quickly approaching, and the Atlanta Falcons have quickly become one of the most intriguing teams to watch in this year’s event. There are a number of ways the Falcons can go with their No. 8 overall pick, and they’ve got five of the top 82 picks in this draft.
In the lead-up to this important draft for Atlanta, we’re going to be providing our evaluations of some of the top prospects. For those unfamiliar with our process, we’re using Kevin Knight’s own grading system, which you can read about here. This system is still in development and minor tweaks may be made as more data is available.
Today’s prospect is Iowa center Tyler Linderbaum. Were positional value not a thing, Linderbaum would be among the top 10 players in this draft. He is an athletic and violent run blocker who has the balance and flexibility to fend off pass rushers at the next level. Concerns about his size—particularly his arm length—persist, but the two-time All-American should develop into a very good pro in the right scheme.
OC | Tyler Linderbaum | Iowa | #65
RAS: 9.57U* Results taken from 4/11 Pro Day
Games watched: Nebraska, Wisconsin, Michigan
One of the most well-rounded and polished center prospects to come out in quite some time, Tyler Linderbaum has a skill set that should make his transition to the NFL fairly smooth. Linderbaum excelled in multiple varsity sports while in high school, including wrestling; he pinned NFL offensive tackle and former Iowa teammate Tristan Wirfs as a junior in regionals.
That natural athleticism and honed toughness leap out on film. Linderbaum explodes off the snap to gain first positioning on virtually every snap, and his superb leverage makes it difficult for defenders to regroup. He is masterful on reach blocks, getting his head across the body of 3-technique defenders before they’ve taken a step upfield. Linderbaum is best suited as an on-the-move zone blocker. He climbs to the second level naturally, takes correct angles and is savvy at identifying threats to the play as it unfolds.
Linderbaum is a tick better as a run blocker at this point, but he has the tools to be an asset in pass protection before too long. Rarely was the two-time All-American off-balance, even when in a compromised position. He has the anchor to stifle bull rushes, although that will be tested in the NFL. Gets his hands inside and latches on to control the engagement. Short arms make the margin for error in Linderbaum’s timing fairly narrow. Still, Linderbaum is a handful once he gets his mitts on a defender. Keeps eyes up to identify late defensive movement, but he could use polish as a help blocker in pass sets.
The questions surrounding Linderbaum largely have to do with his size, which likely limits him to certain schemes, and the positional value of a center in the draft. Neither of those is really in his control, but the former has certainly not been a hindrance for Linderbaum thus far. He compares favorably to players like Jason Kelce, Corey Linsley or Jeff Saturday. Linderbaum should start and play well from Day 1.
Small, even by center standards. Size will likely relegate him to a center-only role in the NFL. Plays much bigger than his size would indicate. May be off teams’ boards due to size standards.
Superb flexibility as an interior lineman. Shows up while on the move, where he can maintain balance and control from a variety of off-platform positions. Keeps cleats in the ground. Wraps around and turns defenders on reach blocks.
Packs a punch for a player labeled “undersized.” Has the necessary power to anchor in pass protection and move defenders in the run game. Excellent power in his hands. Better suited for a zone or gap scheme. Will need help against the bigger bodies in the NFL.
Fires out quickly from his stance to engage defenders in the run game. Moves easily to the second level and beyond. Will effectively make reach blocks due to his quickness. Originally played defensive tackle because of his natural athletic ability.
Plays with great leverage right from the snap. Wins the positioning battle before his opponent knows what hit him. Wrestling background shows in his natural hip explosion and body control. Understands how to use a defender’s leverage against him.
Almost preternatural hand-usage ability. Very disciplined in this area. Keeps his hands inside the defender to control him. Doesn’t go for unnecessary holds if he can’t reach a defender properly. Doesn’t always fully engage a defender and can slide off.
Pass Protection: 6
Active and alert as a pass blocker. Stays balanced and drops his anchor to stall rushes up the middle. Creates a good pocket for his quarterback. Reloads hands to fight pass-rush counters. Handled the bull rush well, but NFL size may be a different story. Shorter arms may be a problem against lengthy interior players.
Run Blocking: 7
Comes out low and hard in the run game. Reach block is exceptional to control gaps from a leverage disadvantage. Climbs to the second level well. Won’t move nose tackles off the ball in the run game 1-on-1 at the next level. Can lose grip on defenders when off-balance.
Keeps his eyes up and downfield to monitor late blitzes or line action. Can be too concerned about stunts and twists at times. Identifies second-level defenders quickly as a run blocker. Excellent understanding of angles.
Competitive Toughness: 8
A former wrestler, and it shows up in his game. Looks for action when he’s uncovered and will play all the way through the whistle. Takes the fight to opposing players and sets the tone up front.
Athleticism: 9.57, 19/20
Linderbaum didn’t participate at the NFL Combine or Iowa’s Pro Day due to a foot sprain he suffered in his final collegiate game. He held a private workout recently and showcased the outstanding athletic profile he has for the position. Linderbaum should immediately become one of the most athletic offensive linemen upon entering the league.