Tyler Linderbaum, IOL, Iowa
Reason: Gap Blocking, Anchor, Arm length
Games watched (2021): Colorado State, Penn State, Minnesota
A popular name and rightfully so, the Rimington Trophy winner and All-American was one of the best players in the entire country last season. With athletic ability so incredible it surpasses the layman’s ability to comprehend such greatness, Linderbaum becomes a great fit for any offense actively looking to move their linemen in the run game. With such technical proficiency to complete reach, scoop, and down blocks, he most likely upgrades a team’s rushing ability the moment he sets foot on the field.
With his wrestling background and technique, he was able to out-leverage athletes bigger and longer than him all from a 6-foot-3, 291-pound body. Watching him reach defensive tackles while actively redirecting his arms to maintain leverage is impressive by any means, throw in the fact he’s relatively undersized and the feat is magnified.
However, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that an undersized player can struggle in areas of his game that require power. It happened with Connor Williams when he was drafted, it is still happening with Tyler Biadasz, and if Linderbaum dons the star the same will likely happen to him.
But that’s the issue. If your offensive line, which didn’t end the season particularly well, as a specific criticism and the player you select doesn’t necessarily help mitigate that criticism immediately, does that pick make sense?
It’s a tricky question, but a question that can be answered with a small schematic overview.
The Dallas Cowboys run a combinational running game but tend to run more Gap/Power blocking concepts than Zone running concepts. It is unclear if the team wants to incorporate more Zone running with added touches for running back Tony Pollard, but if the team decides they are better off sticking to their past rushing plan, finding offensive linemen with proficiency in this area is likely higher on their big board.
Guess who isn’t the greatest gap blocker? You guessed it!
Let me be clear, Linderbaum can play in a gap-blocking scheme! However, at his current size and body type, he would need to continue demonstrating good hand technique, solid play strength, good physicality, and good pad level. Already in college, if he needs a few things to go right to be successful, he probably stands a worse chance at succeeding in the NFL.
Players are longer and better at winning at the point of attack; the coaching staff asking him to base and down block consistently is just asking him to lose more matchups as the game progresses. This is a big reason why the Dallas Cowboys covet length across all offensive linemen; you have to be able to initiate at the point of attack. Linderbaum having sub-32-inch arms would be an outlier for the team.
By the same token, Linderbaum’s pass protection does start to suffer when a defender attacks him with a secondary bull rush or a power move. He does struggle with one on one matchups of these types and usually requires a double team to sort things out.
With Zack Martin helping him out, this doesn’t seem so bad. With currently no one signed at left guard, things slowly start looking worse. Need I mention, Linderbaum and Biadasz have flaws in the same aspects albeit to varying degrees. Is Linderbaum really that much of an upgrade from the perspective of the flaw?
However, as Mike McCarthy first said when he joined the organization, the personnel will make up what the team is able to execute. If the team drafts Linderbaum, do they believe they can have a more balanced running game that allows Tony Pollard to use his strengths in a zone-heavy running attack? A man can dream.