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Why the Ravens drafted center Tyler Linderbaum

Baltimore selected Linderbaum with the No. 25 pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.

NFL: APR 28 2022 Draft Photo by Jeff Speer/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Baltimore Ravens selected Tyler Linderbaum with the No. 25 pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, their fourth first-round selection in the last two drafts. After selecting Kyle Hamilton with the No. 14 pick, Baltimore shocked the world by trading wide receiver Marquise “Hollywood” Brown and the No. 100 pick to the Arizona Cardinals in exchange for the No. 23 pick Thursday night. Baltimore then traded the No. 23 pick to the Buffalo Bills in exchange for the No. 25 pick and No. 130. Finally, the Ravens selected Linderbaum with that pick, which spurns the question why did the Ravens draft Tyler Linderbaum?

Linderbaum answered the question himself at his introductory press conference.

Linderbaum is an elite processor in pass protection who rarely, if ever, fails to recognize a stunt thrown at him. If left uncovered, he urgently looks for work to clear throwing lanes for his quarterback. The former Iowa Hawkeye is one of the most agile, nimble and technically sound center prospects in the last few draft classes. He’s a pro-ready pass protector who has great foot speed and quickness that allow him to shoot his hands into defensive tackles chest plates and win first contact. While he lacks size and length, he makes up for it in urgency and technique.

Linderbaum is a truly special athlete at the center position in space. He eats up linebackers coming off combo blocks, rarely failing to beat them to their spot. On reach blocks, he cuts off the front side with unbeatable quickness to prevent defensive lineman from running plays down from behind. He possesses awesome core strength and flexibility to continue reworking leverage and angles, while his vice grip meat-hook hands prevent defenders from disengaging. Linderbaum’s hand placement on the move is unimpeachable; rarely is he ever in jeopardy of drawing a hold due to being outside a defenders chest.

The Iowa native is one of the rare offensive lineman who can consistently run down defensive backs on screens or long gains and finishes them into the dirt at a shockingly high rate. On perimeter run concepts, it’s not unusual to see Linderbaum get his hands on two, three or even four defenders as he walls off the sideline.

While Linderbaum doesn’t fit the prototype of a gap scheme rushing attack, Baltimore has the most mobile center they’ve had under Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman. This could allow for Linderbaum to be used on pin and pull concepts where the center can pull frontside and work as a lead blocker, the same way that the Eagles have used Jason Kelce over the years.

Baltimore has also lacked lineman that are athletic enough to connect on smaller defenders in space for screens, which haven’t been utilized enough in the last few years.

Another major reason Baltimore selected Linderbaum was to find continuity at a position that has been in flux for a decade. Since winning Super Bowl XLVII with Matt Birk at center in 2012-13, Baltimore has rolled out Bradley Bozeman, Trystan Colon-Castillo, Matt Skura, Patrick Mekari, Ryan Jensen, Jeremy Zuttah, John Urschel and Gino Gradkowski. None of them started in three consecutive seasons. The hope is that Linderbaum will provide stability along their offensive line, which desperately needs it. In the immediate, the Ravens now have answers at right tackle, right guard and center. Patrick Mekari is freed up to be a sixth man that can play all five positions, and immediately providing a viable insurance policy if left tackle Ronnie Stanley is unable to take the field again this fall.