It’s been over two weeks since the 2022 NFL Draft concluded and the hype for the Baltimore Ravens’ impressive 11-man haul is still high. Often overly optimistic and sometimes unfair projections are placed on first-year players entering the league before they even take a snap in the preseason. With that in mind, the return of my annual realistic expectation article series has arrived.
C Tyler Linderbaum
Round 1 No. 25 overall
The former Iowa Hawkeye was one of the most popular prospects being projected to be the Ravens’ first-round selection both at No. 14 overall and in some trade-back scenarios. General Manager, Eric DeCosta, was able to land the top center both in this year’s class and the past few years, according to his own words, near the bottom of the first after trading back from the slot they were slated to select with the pick they acquired in the Marquise ‘Hollywood’ Brown trade.
"I'm speechless."— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) April 29, 2022
Inside the call to Tyler Linderbaum
: Catch the 2022 NFL Draft on NFL Network, ABC, & ESPN from April 28-30. pic.twitter.com/vr4D8ADIwK
Even though he hails from the same elite offensive linemen factory as franchise legend and future Hall of Famer, Marshal Yanda, the slightly undersized Linderbaum should not be expected to play at a gold-jacket level from the jump. He provides the Ravens’ offensive line with an athletic stabilizing force to be the anchor in the middle of the unit.
The Ravens have had somewhat of a revolving door at center since 2017 with no player starting a full season for two consecutive years. They drafted and developed Ryan Jensen who has become one of the best in the league at the position but they couldn’t afford to keep him following his breakout 2017 season.
Matt Skura made double-digit starts in three straight years but his last two were cut short by injury and benching due to inconsistent play coming off that injury. Patrick Mekari was their top reliever at the position from 2019 to 2020 and is a utility player that can play all five spots on the offensive line. Bradley Bozeman started all but one game last season before signing elsewhere in free agency this offseason. Trystan Colon has made three starts over the last two seasons in emergency spot duty and is a solid backup.
The last elite player they had at the position was Matt Birk, a six-time Pro Bowler who played for them for three years, and retired following the 2012 Super Bowl winning season. Linderbaum is the best option they’ve had in nearly a decade and could have a rookie season that mirrors Creed Humphrey of the Kansas City Chiefs in 2021.
Even though he went in the second round out of Oklahoma, Humphrey was the top center prospect in last year’s draft and quickly established himself as one of the best players at the position in his first season. Many believed that he was unjustly snubbed from both the Pro Bowl and at least the All-Pro Second Team.
Both Linderbaum and Humphrey come with strong wrestling backgrounds and show an understanding of how to gain and exploit leverage when blocking that is beyond their years. What makes Linderbaum’s game especially impressive is that he is short on size and stature at 6-foot-2 and 305 pounds, but he makes for it in spades by being an incredible athlete.
He is strong at the point of attack, plays with an aggressive edge to his game, executes and finishes his blocks with authority. Expect Ravens Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman to utilize Linderbaum’s ability to get on his horse and move in space as a puller in the running game, and the passing game in pass protection as well as in the screen game.
With the 25th pick of the #NFLDraft, the Baltimore Ravens select Tyler Linderbaum.— Nic Mason (@British_Raven19) April 29, 2022
Very impressive film, even better football IQ. Ravens get the help at Center they need! #RavensFlock pic.twitter.com/GM6ZwmZZvk
Linderbaum will benefit from playing next to stalwart veteran right guard Kevin Zeitler and his game will continue to grow with the experience and coaching he gains. Ravens fans can rest easy knowing that he can perform the rudimentary responsibility of a center that is consistently delivering on target snaps to Lamar Jackson after errant snaps cost the team dearly in some big games over the past few seasons.