Ravens Urged to Draft Elite Iowa Center: ‘A Game-Changer in the Middle’

Tyler Linderbaum

Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images Tyler Linderbaum of the Iowa Hawkeyes prior to the Citrus Bowl on January 1, 2022.

The Baltimore Ravens allowed 57 sacks last season, second-most in the league behind the Chicago Bears. Given that and the importance of the running game to the team’s offense, it’s no surprise that general manager Eric DeCosta has described improving the offensive line as a “point of emphasis,” noting that he’d like to add multiple players at that position group.

Iowa’s Tyler Linderbaum: Worthy of a Top 10 Pick But Available Later?

One of those players should be Iowa center Tyler Linderbaum, says Bleacher Report’s Kristopher Knox, noting that he’s “worthy of a top-10 selection, though he could fall to the middle of Round 1 (as) interior linemen simply aren’t valued as highly as their tackle counterparts.”

That would suit the Ravens just fine, as Baltimore has the No. 14 overall pick in the 2022 Draft and could very well need a replacement for pending unrestricted free agent Bradley Bozeman, 27, who has played out his rookie contract and “has probably priced himself out of a return,” says Jeff Zrebiec, who cover the Ravens for The Athletic.

Indeed, Bozeman is in line for a big raise, as the total cap number for the former Alabama product was $4.1 million (per overthecap.com) over the past four seasons, with most of that coming in the form of his $2.183 million salary in 2021. That’s the kind of bargain that can be had when a former sixth-round pick (No. 215 overall in 2018) becomes a three-year starter on the interior of your offensive line.

The good news is that the Ravens are projected to have 10 picks with which to fill holes and add to the team’s depth, including nine selections in the first four rounds, three of which would be compensatory picks.

“If we do our job correctly, if we set the board the right way, we have a really good chance to build some serious, quality depth,” GM Eric DeCosta said at his above-linked press conference in early February.

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Tyler Linderbaum: A ‘Dynamic Weapon’ on the Offensive Line

As for Linderbaum’s pro potential, Pro Football Focus has the Iowa native—6-foot-3 and 290 pounds—as the No. 9 ranked player in its 2022 NFL Draft Guide, with PFF’s Seth Galina arguing that “there hasn’t been a better center prospect in years.”

PFF has also called the 2021 Rimington Trophy Winner “the most athletic lineman in college football, adding that “his hands, balance, play strength and processing are also top notch.”

But like most draft analysts, PFF.com likes him as a center only, saying, “While he’s talented enough to play guard in a pinch, don’t move him from center. A scheme that gets its linemen on the move would be best suited to his skillet.”

That mirrors the evaluation of Kyle Crabbs of NFL Draft Network, who says, “I consider him a center-exclusive prospect … which may temper his value in the eyes of teams at the top of the NFL draft order. But for the product that you’re investing in, you’ll likely find Linderbaum to be well worth the cost. He is a highly polished, highly cerebral and dynamic weapon on the offensive line that presents some unique traits that could make him a game-changer in the middle of your offensive front.”

Also of note, Linderbaum’s overall PFF grade has risen every year, going from 81.7 in 2019 to 91.5 in 2020 to a remarkable 95.4 in 2021, allowing just one sack, two quarterback hits and four hurries in 457 pass block snaps last season, overcoming what some see as his only weakness.

“His hand placement in pass protection is about the only red flag on an otherworldly resume. Because of how impressive his hands are in the run game, Linderbaum should easily be able to improve in that regard,” concludes PFF.

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