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2022 NFL Draft: Iowa center Tyler Linderbaum looks like a Round 1 steal

Tyler Linderbaum was once known as one of the best wrestlers in the state of Iowa and a pro when it came to chucking hay bales at the annual Solon Beef Days Celebration. Now, the 6-foot-2, 302-pounder is known as something else — the best center prospect PFF has ever graded.

Linderbaum was a four-sport athlete at Solon High School before he enrolled at Iowa as an interior defensive lineman in 2018. A year later, he moved to center, where he started 35 consecutive games and finished the season as the fifth-highest-graded player at the position. He then took the top spot in 2020 and 2021, with that final season earning the highest grade PFF for a center in the PFF College era.

Highest-graded season by a Power Five center in the PFF College era (since 2014)
Player, Team (Season) PFF Grade
Tyler Linderbaum, Iowa Hawkeyes (‘21) 95.4
Austin Blythe, Iowa Hawkeyes (‘14) 94.4
Frank Ragnow, Arkansas Razorbacks (‘16) 92.3
Matt Skura, Duke Blue Devils (‘15) 92.2
Tyler Linderbaum, Iowa Hawkeyes (‘20) 91.5

Given his meteoric rise, one could reasonably assume that the Rimmington Trophy winner is destined to be among the first prospects off the board in the 2022 NFL Draft. But, in reality, that’s not likely to be the case.

Right now, mock drafts from all over have the former Hawkeye slotted near the end of the first round, and some even have him sliding out of Day 1 altogether. Meanwhile, the betting markets have his draft position set at 27.5 with a slight lean toward the under.

Why is one of the best draft prospects in the class expected to go so late?

Well, there are a couple of reasons. Firstly, there’s the wide-held belief that center is not a valuable position, which is why teams seldom invest valuable capital in the position.

Of course, that belief is only partly true: While centers are certainly not as valuable as quarterbacks or wide receivers, they do generate just as much value as tackles in the NFL, according to PFF Wins Above Replacement (WAR). Yet, even though the data suggests otherwise, the idea that center isn’t as valuable as offensive tackle has long permeated through league circles, evidenced by the massive disparity in player pay at the two positions.

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