2022 NFL Draft Cheat Sheet: Interior Offensive Linemen

Tyler Linderbaum, Iowa

In terms of the pure level of joy that it brings me to watch a prospect, very few beat out Iowa’s Tyler Linderbaum. The Solon, IA native is a mauler at the center position, and his mean streak shows in his place. Tyler Linderbaum wants to kill you, and it’s awesome. Not only does Linderbaum have that killer instinct, but he has sound technique to go with it. Linderbaum’s wrestling background comes through in his play. His hands are strong and consistently well-placed, his hips are fluid, and his footwork is quick and smooth. Linderbaum is the single best center prospect the NFL Draft has seen in years.

I know I’m supposed to be listing negatives here, but I really don’t see all that many downsides to Linderbaum’s game. The main complaints I tend to see from scouts are that he’s under the 300-pound threshold that the NFL looks for in offensive linemen, and that he lacks the power to deal with professional-level defenders. I think those two go hand in hand, and I think they can easily be fixed by NFL strength and conditioning coaches. Somebody get Linderbaum on that NFL offensive lineman meal plan and watch him flourish in the pro game.

Kenyon Green, Texas A&M

Kenyon Green will make his money as a guard, and he’ll make a lot more of that money if he goes to a pass-heavy scheme. Scouts and draft analysts are swooning over Green’s pass protection game, and on tape, it’s easy to see why. Green’s willingness to bulldoze defenders and impressive frame make getting to the quarterback hell on the interior, but all this isn’t to say that he’s a scheme-specific fit. Green can still excel in the run game, it just seems to be talked about far less by those who are really in the know. If you tell Green to move someone, he will have absolutely no problem doing it. To put things in perspective, his NFL Draft page says he “feasts on slabs of ribs” in pass protection. You can’t get much better than slabs of ribs.

Green’s biggest deficiency is that while it might look polished on some plays, his technique can get a bit erratic throughout the course of a game. While at Texas A&M, he tended to resort to holding when he got beat which, in my eyes, is what we in the industry call “a big no-no.” Green clearly takes pride in his protection of the quarterback, but holding his defender is probably going to cost the team far more than just trying to recover when you know you’ve been beat.

Zion Johnson, Boston College

Zion Johnson’s frame is perfect for guard play at the NFL level. His wingspan allows him a bit of leeway, and you could move him out to tackle if you really wanted to, but at 6’3 312 and most of his weight in his trunk, he’s built more like the world’s first living rectangle. His draft profile designates him as a “brute force” kind of guy. Do you realize how strong you have to be for NFL scouts to refer to you as using “brute force?” In addition to being physically imposing, Johnson is a smart football player, and it shows in how fast he recognizes what’s coming at him. Once his technique catches up to his brain, his potential is limitless.

Johnson’s technique, however, leaves a bit to be desired. His opening stance is, for lack of a better term, really weird-looking. Quite frankly, it can make him look a bit small at times, and it can knock him off balance, causing his initial punch to land too high or too low. Despite his strength, he’s not going to run over many defenders. I worry that Johnson might be a bit scheme-specific to gap play as he has trouble finding his way in space. I’m not sure wide zone running teams are going to be too high on him, but his potential and what he can do will certainly make him a first round pick.

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