Tyler Linderbaum began his college football career as a defensive tackle. He ended it as the first Iowa center selected in theNFL Draft’s first round.
Linderbaum (6-2, 302), who was drafted by Baltimore Ravens with the 25th overall pick, played three years of high-level football for the Hawkeyes. He started 35 consecutive games and was a two-time All-American, including a unanimous first-teamer in 2021. Linderbaum won the Rimington Trophy, which goes to the nation’s top center, and also was named Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year.
During bowl prep following his first season, Linderbaum flipped to offense and earned the starting center slot by spring 2019. He was Pro Football Focus’ highest-graded center in 2020 and 2021 and became the 10th unanimous All-American in Iowa history.
Linderbaum blends elite balance, power, quickness and explosiveness with technique and tenacity. Hampered by a foot injury suffered in the Citrus Bowl, Linderbaum missed combine and pro day workouts, but he conducted his own pro day on April 11. He ran 4.98 in the 40-yard dash, had a 1.71 10-yard time and bench pressed 225 pounds 24 times. He has faced criticism for being undersized, to which he said, “I’m confident in my abilities.”
“I think the center is a tempo-setter,” Linderbaum said. “They’re the guy that sets the tempo for the offensive line. That’s something I tried to do right away, make a day-one impact when I first moved to that position. That’s something I’ll try to do whenever I get to my team. So, I think it’s important that you’re the guy that holds guys accountable and works their butt off.”
Linderbaum is the 11th first-round player and sixth offensive lineman coached by Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz.
Dane Brugler on Tyler Linderbaum (No. 1 C, No. 19 overall prospect in The Beast)
A three-year starter at Iowa, Linderbaum was the starting center in offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz’s outside zone-based scheme. After James Daniels left early for the NFL following the 2018 season, the Hawkeyes’ coaches asked Linderbaum to move from defensive tackle to center, where he started all 35 games the past three seasons. He took home the Rimington Award in 2021 as the nation’s top center (first in Iowa history to win the award).
A six-sport athlete in high school, Linderbaum is very quick in his snap and step and shows athletic range, body control and refinement as an on-the-move or reach blocker. Although he doesn’t have an ideal body type, his wrestling background is clear with his handwork, leverage and killer instinct to win early or reset mid-rep. Overall, Linderbaum is a  center-only prospect and will struggle at times in pass protection due to his lack of length, but he is an elite-level run blocker due to his athleticism and grip strength to latch-and-drive. He projects as a longtime NFL starter in a zone-based scheme.
In what was perhaps the signature play of Iowa’s abbreviated 2020 season, running back Tyler Goodson burst through the line of scrimmage and raced 80 yards late in the fourth quarter to cap a 28-7 win against Wisconsin. Running every step of the way just behind Goodson was Linderbaum. It wasn’t a unique moment for Linderbaum, who frequently raced down the field to make third-level blocks, but it was one that displayed both his speed and competitiveness in a high-profile moment.
“I’ve seen a lot of guys that have a lot of ability. I played with guys that have a lot of ability. He maximized every ounce of what he had at all times. That’s how Tyler Linderbaum plays the game. And that’s why you miss him even more as a person, as a teammate, as an example for the rest of the football team than you miss him as a player.” — Iowa offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz
Through all of the hype and PFF rankings, the one aspect of Linderbaum’s game that is stounding is how he navigates traffic to find the player he needs to hit and drills him. That could be executing a reach block on a three-technique tackle and shoving him backward into a linebacker. It could be blasting the nose tackle or inside linebacker on a quarterback sneak. Rarely does Linderbaum miss on a target, no matter how congested it is along the line of scrimmage.
(Top pic: Tony Quinn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)