Jets’ Senior Bowl Favorite Could End Tyler Linderbaum Fantasies

Zion Johnson

Getty Boston College offensive lineman Zion Johnson (#77) celebrates a touchdown with his teammates on October 3, 2020.

The Senior Bowl has officially come and gone and several prospects certainly caught the eye of the New York Jets and their fans.

Whether it was GM Joe Douglas chatting a player up, pure domination from an unexpected sleeper, or a top target performing as expected — plenty of draft favorites emerged as the week went on. One may have even stolen the spotlight from a popular target among Gang Green supporters.

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Strong Second Option on the Interior

Iowa product Tyler Linderbaum has become a draft darling for a contingent of Jets fans in 2022. The prototypical center prospect is a legitimate blue-chip talent but many believe his versatility may limit him to that role.

That creates a few potential issues for any fantasies that involve Linderbaum at Florham Park.

First off, the Green & White have a center and he performed pretty well in 2021 — despite what public opinion may believe. Connor McGovern had a tremendous bounce-back campaign in the new offensive scheme according to Pro Football Focus, ranking 10th in the NFL at the position (minimum 250 snaps) with a 75.9 overall and a 78.9 as a run-blocker.

If the Jets drafted Linderbaum, that would mean they’d have to shift McGovern to right guard or cut him as a cap casualty. Both options would be somewhat disrespectful after his 2021 campaign, but such is life in the NFL.

Second, Douglas is known to love versatility on the offensive line. It’s not necessarily a dealbreaker but he prefers blockers that can play multiple positions.

If you don’t believe me, just look at his acquisitions since taking over as general manager. George Fant was a swing tackle in Seattle before signing with the Jets. McGovern has experience at guard. Alijah Vera-Tucker dominated at OT and OG at USC. Dan Feeney can slot in just about anywhere as a reliable reserve and the same can be said about Isaiah Williams, another Douglas pick up.

The list goes on. Side note: The GM’s least versatile addition might actually be Mekhi Becton.

Finally, Linderbaum would most likely cost a pretty penny’s worth of draft capital, which is rare when discussing the center position. The Jets could trade down from 10th overall, but would that mean they lose out on the Iowa stud?

In the end, it may be a risk Douglas is willing to take and that’s partially due to Boston College guard Zion Johnson. NYJ beat reporter Brian Costello called the interior offensive lineman the “most impressive player” he saw this week, adding that he is a “name to watch for the Jets in the draft.”

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Johnson Voted ‘Practice Player of the Week’

Senior Bowl executive director Jim Nagy tweeted that “Johnson was named 2022 Reese’s Senior Bowl Practice Player of the Week” — an honor only awarded to “one position player” on each roster.

Lead draft analyst for The Athletic, Dane Brugler, commented that the decision was “deserved.” He continued: “Zion Johnson is the top iOL prospect in Mobile – and you could make the argument he is the top offensive prospect on either roster.”

Johnson is certainly skilled. The Draft Network’s Joe Marino scouted him as “a smart and physical blocker with consistent technique.”

Marino detailed further: “He plays within himself and is rarely caught with poor posture or poor control of his frame. I believe he is best in pass protection but he’s still an above-average run blocker that is comfortable operating in space. Johnson has plug-and-play potential at guard in the NFL.”

All of these college all-stars have talent though, and it wasn’t just Johnson’s ability that turned heads.

On February 2, Nagy tweeted: “Boston College OL Zion Johnson, the top graded guard in the draft, staying after @seniorbowl practice working on his center skills. This is what NFL scouts are looking for.”

The diligent blocker played guard and tackle in college but as Costello mentioned, he “moved to center at the Senior Bowl.” Upon doing so, he ended up being the last man off the practice field on all three days after getting in some extra work on his snaps.

Costello wrote: “He was strong at the point of attack and I did not see him get beat in practice. Jets coaches were impressed with his grasp of the offense, too.”

High character, good work ethic, scheme intelligence, versatile enough to play anywhere on the line — Johnson checks every Douglas box that exists. He also makes more sense than Linderbaum from a value perspective if he pans out.

The BC product might still be available at one of those early second-rounders and you wouldn’t have to switch McGovern to guard. Then, depending on how the Jets veteran center does in 2022, you can either extend him or slide Johnson over to the middle after his rookie year.

This may not be the dream Jets fans had planned but it would be a pretty awesome reality.

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