By Dylan MacKinnon
Jason Kelce will eventually retire. we now know it wont be this offseason, but the Eagles have to prepare for a future without their future Hall of Fame Center. This is why many Eagles fans want the Eagles to target the future center this draft. And there is one name that comes up again and again. Tyler Linderbaum out of Iowa. He is being billed to be the best prospect at center in a long time. But is the hype legit? Let’s take a look at Linderbaum and his potential fit for Philly.
A Jason Kelce Clone
Very athletic center. Capable of making blocks downfield and keeping up with his running back WRs, cornerbacks, and linebackers. Am I describing the Eagles’ current center? Well yes, but the description also fits Tyler Linderbaum. The comparison is not hyperbole either. If it was not for the Iowa jersey on his back, you could confuse him with Jason Kelce when you pop in his game tape. Someone brought up the comparison to Linderbaum, and he stayed humble.
“Obviously, he’s an All-Pro, and I’m not quite to his level yet. But it’s pretty cool to have comparisons like that. But I have a lot of work to do to get to his level. I’m going to keep working. Obviously, he’s a great player, but I got a lot of work to do.”- Tyler Linderbaum
But still, the glove seems to fit. Not to say he will be just as good as Kelce. Kelce will end up a Hall of Famer and just won his 4th All-Pro. But just watch how Linderbaum moves when blocking downfield, and tell me it doesn’t remind you of Kelce.
Tyler Linderbaum (65) can MOVE 😳— PFF (@PFF) January 1, 2022
#️⃣6️⃣ prospect on PFF’s 2022 Draft Boardpic.twitter.com/kXgYqJCGXh
But his skillset doesn’t stop at downfield blocking. He was also a very effective pass blocker while at Iowa. He may not be large, but you cant just push him around either. Linderbaum has surprising power for someone many scouts consider undersized. And he has the technique to go with it. His time as wrestler in High School lends to him having great hand technique. There is a reason he gave up barley any sacks in his time at Iowa.
Tyler Linderbaum only allowed 2 sacks in 1,201 career pass-blocking snaps 💪 pic.twitter.com/PbV5pEZO1Y— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) February 1, 2022
Is Size a Concern?
He even shares the same knocks on his game that Kelce got coming into the NFL. “Too small,” many will say. This is what one Pro Scout told NFL Network’s Lance Zierlein.
“Really fun tape. He’s going to be really hard to beat to the spot but he’s just a small man (by our standards) and that worries me.” — Pro personnel director for NFC team
The Combine did nothing to assuage those concerns. He measured at 6’2″, 296lbs, with 31 and a 1/8″ arms. All small compared to the average O Lineman prospect. But for some reference, lets compare that to how Kelce measured at the combine. Kelce was listed 6’2″, 280lbs, with 32 3/8″ arms. All the things they say now about Linderbaum, they said about Jason Kelce before.
Of course the size concerns never seemed to hold Kelce back too much. But it certainly something teams are going to consider. He may not be the best fit for a pass heavy, stay in the pocket, type offense. His size does hurt him vs large bull rush style DTs. Line him up against a giant NT vs a 3-4 defense, he may need some extra help on pass downs. But if he did end up an Eagle, their current offense is the exact type he is the ideal fit for.
All the things he does well outweigh the size issue. It is rare to find Linemen who can move like he does. And if Eagles went from Kelce, to Linderbaum, it may be the center equivalent of going from Peyton Manning to Andrew Luck.
An Interesting Road to the Drafts Top Center Prospect.
Linderbaum did not start his college career as a center. In fact he was recruited to be a DT. It wasn’t until just before the 2019 Outback Bowl that they switched him to Center. And that decision may go down as one of the best in the long career of Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz. Now, Linderbaum is a Remington Award Winning Center, and will be a top pick in the NFL Draft.
Linderbaum was not highly recruited out of high school. He was considered the 409th best prospect in the Nation in his class. But the people in his hometown of Solon, Iowa knew he was going to be great. Linderbaum was a Six-sport athlete in high school. You read that right, six sports. Many students struggle to find the school and sports balance with only one sport. He juggled 6 sports with his School work. With that considered, being the 400th best recruit becomes much more impressive. on top of Football, he also played Basketball, Wrestling, track and Field, and Baseball.
Competitiveness is a word that is continually used to describe him. Whether it is team mates, himself, scouts, or current and former coaches.
“If there’s something that he really exudes it’s that fierce competitiveness. Just a refusal to lose.” – Kevin Miller, Linderbaum’s Highschool Football Coach
And it is not just his fiery play, or impressive skill that makes people want to play with or coach him. Everyone he has crossed paths with seems to genuinely like him as a person. Here is what one former teammate had to say about him, when interviewed by KCRG in Iowa.
“It make sense Tyler’s that kind of guy, he’s such a great person comes from a great family, he’s got a great upbringing, it’s incredible to see… It’s not the big games or the big plays that I remember most, with Tyler, it’s the early practices or weight sessions that we kind of suffered through. You (would) look over at Tyler and he’s always got a smile on his face, ready to go.”- Zach Wegmann, Highschool teammate of Linderbaum.
What Draft Experts Say
“Linderbaum has Pro Bowl potential but needs to be matched with a move-based rushing attack. He has the foot quickness and GPS to consistently find top positioning in the first phase of the block. He plays with leverage and body control to sustain and keep the running lane open. However, his size will make block finishing somewhat hit or miss and he will need help against some of the bigger defenders lining up across from him. Teams with certain size standards might pass on him but his tenacity and talent make him a can’t-miss prospect if matched in the right scheme.”
Jordan Reid- ESPN
From my first mock in November. Give me all of Linderbaum and Dickerson as the future IOL in Philly. pic.twitter.com/MjzBnrGTGT— Jordan Reid (@Jordan_Reid) January 14, 2022
Even with Kelce not retiring, it is feasible they could still be interested in Linderbaum. O Line is a position the Eagles are constantly targeting. Two years ago they drafted Andre Dillard in anticipation of Jason Peters retiring eventually. That pick did not work out, but it shows the mindset of the Eagles. More recently they spent a 2nd on Landon Dickerson, viewing him as the heir apparent to Kelce. Turns out he is actually the LG of the future. But again, this shows the Eagles willingness to invest in the future of their O Line.
Similarly, Linderbaum could be the RG this year, and then slide over to Center. Or maybe he plays like an All Pro RG and the Eagles again find themselves looking for a Center next year. What ever the case, expect the Eagles to keep one eye on Linderbaum. If he falls because some teams get scared off by his arm size, Howie Roseman might pounce. It is hard to pass up on a once in a generation talent.