Ravens Want 'Big Guys' at Center, See Good Depth in Draft

Iowa offensive lineman Tyler Linderbaum (65) plays against Nebraska during the first half of an NCAA college football game Friday, Nov. 26, 2021, at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Neb.

One of the most popular mock draft projections to Baltimore has been Iowa center Tyler Linderbaum, but if General Manager Eric DeCosta isn't throwing up smokescreens, it doesn't seem to be a fit.

The Ravens are still looking to upgrade their offensive line. Last year's starting center, Bradley Bozeman, departed in free agency. On the surface, it makes sense.

But Linderbaum doesn't fit the mold of what the Ravens have usually looked for, or drafted/signed, at the position.

"Our philosophy, honestly, is we want big guys," DeCosta said in Tuesday's pre-draft press conference. "We want big guys at every position, across the offense, across the defense, in general."

Baltimore has a history of using big centers, from Matt Birk (6-4, 310), to Ryan Jensen (6-4, 319), to Bozeman (6-5, 325).

At 6-foot-2, 296 pounds, Linderbaum is one of the smallest offensive linemen in this year's draft. He has fantastic quickness, footwork, and a wrestler's mentality. But pundits believe Linderbaum's size will make him scheme dependent as more of a zone blocker.

The Ravens aren't the only team who like big, power-blocking centers. DeCosta said teams are increasingly drafting guards or even tackles and converting them to center. That's why so many players take snaps at center during the pre-draft process, just to see how natural they may be at the job.

Typically, DeCosta said there will only be one or two very good centers and they go pretty high. Then there's only four or five centers in the entire class that they view as draftable. This year is a little different, however.

"I think one of the cool things about this draft at the center position is we see four or five guys that we like that might not be first round-type picks and that might be second, third, or fourth round guys that we think would be good players at center this year," DeCosta said.

Some other centers in this year's class who will go in the middle-to-late rounds will be Kentucky's Luke Fortner, Nebraska's Cam Jurgens, LSU's Chasen Hines and Wake Forest's Zach Tom.

The Ravens have Patrick Mekari, who has two seasons of starting experience at center in Baltimore, and Trystan Colon. So the Ravens don't need an immediate starter. But if there's a chance to grab a talented prospect to groom for the long-term, Baltimore could pull the trigger.

"It's a tough position to play. There's a physical component," DeCosta said. "There's also a very, very strong mental component, as well. Leadership is important. So, you're really looking for the perfect guy to play that position, and it's very tough to find."

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