After two trades, Ravens draft Iowa center Tyler Linderbaum, ‘one of the best technicians,’ with No. 25 pick in NFL draft

The Ravens took Iowa’s Tyler Linderbaum with the No. 25 overall pick Thursday night, adding the NFL draft’s top center prospect after a series of trades that sent wide receiver Marquise “Hollywood” Brown to the Arizona Cardinals.

The 6-foot-2, 296-pound Linderbaum was considered a better fit for zone-running schemes during the predraft process, with the Ravens typically targeting bigger interior linemen for their power-heavy concepts. But Linderbaum, a consensus All-American, impressed team officials with his athleticism and technical ability. He’s the first first-round center selected by the Ravens in franchise history.

The Ravens took Iowa’s Tyler Linderbaum with the No. 25 overall pick Thursday night, adding the draft’s top center after two trades.

General manager Eric DeCosta called him “one of the very most enjoyable football players to watch this year.” Coach John Harbaugh said he expected Linderbaum to “come in and start,” freeing up Patrick Mekari to move either to another interior line position or return to his swing tackle role.

“You’re talking about one of the best technicians — strong, physical, tough, quick-footed,” DeCosta said of Linderbaum after the first round Thursday night. “Somebody said it on TV, I think: If he was an inch taller and his arms were a half-inch longer, he would’ve been a top-five pick, and I believe that. He’s probably one of the better centers we’ve seen come out in a long time. So it filled a huge need for us.”


The pick was the byproduct of two draft-night trades. Minutes after taking Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton at No. 14 overall, the Ravens announced they’d traded Brown, their leading wide receiver, and a third-round pick to the Cardinals for the No. 23 overall pick. Forty minutes later, they swapped spots with Buffalo, acquiring the Bills’ picks at Nos. 25 and 130 overall.

With needs at edge rusher, cornerback and offensive tackle, DeCosta instead produced another surprise. At his predraft news conference earlier this month, he’d suggested that the Ravens were looking for centers bigger than Linderbaum, who ranks in the sixth percentile or lower among offensive linemen in height, weight, wingspan and arm length. Only a handful of mock drafts this week connected the Ravens to Linderbaum in the first round.

But Ravens director of player personnel Joe Hortiz said Linderbaum “can play, really, in any scheme.” According to Pro Football Focus, he graded out last season as an elite run blocker, though his ratings were far better in zone schemes than in gap schemes, and a great pass blocker (one sack and two quarterback hits allowed).

“He’s not the biggest guy,” Hortiz said. “He gets on guys — you guys saw the highlights. That’s him every play. Big guys don’t affect him. He can leverage guys; you saw the wresting. He’s just really a tremendous athlete, knows how to play the position, knows how to get his body in the right spot, and then he just consistently works at maintaining his blocks. You’ll see it when they show highlights; he’ll block three guys in one play. He’s a lot of fun to watch.”

Harbaugh said Linderbaum’s arrival would have a trickle-down effect on the offensive line, which was often maligned last season amid its struggles with injuries and inconsistency.

“When you add a really good player, a top player into the top of the depth chart, the whole depth chart just kind of filters out in a great way,” he said. “Pat Mekari still could find his way into the starting lineup. There’s no doubt about it. He’s a really good player. I’m assuming Tyler is going to come in and start at center — for sure, obviously. We’ll see how [left tackle] Ronnie [Stanley] comes back, but all signs point in the right direction.

“We’ve got a heck of a right tackle [Morgan Moses], we think, maybe two [along with Ja’Wuan James]. We’ve got two veteran tackles we brought in here. There’s some depth already, and I think we may add another offensive lineman into the mix. So to me, there’s going to be a lot of competition for the starting spots, a certain one spot in particular [left guard], but then there’s going to be competition for those backup spots, big time. The thing we’re trying to do is be a physical, punishing offensive line. We want that kind of a mindset in our group, and that’s what Tyler Linderbaum brings to us.”