Future Hall of Fame center Jason Kelce is in the final year of his contract with Philadelphia, and even if the 3-time First-team All-Pro center comes back, he’ll be 35 by the end of next season.
Enter Iowa center Tyler Linderbaum.
Despite being a bit undersized at 6-foot-3, 290-pounds, the senior is widely regarded as the best center and interior lineman in the 2022 NFL draft. He’s currently rated No. 7 in the latest Fanspeak-Jake Rigdon big board.
Now add in the fact that the Eagles have three first-round picks, and it almost feels like a foregone conclusion that Linderbaum will soon be Kelce’s replacement in Philadelphia.
Of course, there’s a big problem with that scenario: There are plenty of teams who’d also like to add Linderbaum in the draft. Maybe a team above Philadelphia takes him. Or maybe a team like the New York Jets, with two high second-round picks, moves back into the first round and jumps ahead of Philadelphia to draft Linderbaum.
That’s why Philadelphia needs to mull its options.
There’s a huge gap at the center position after Linderbaum, as Nebraska’s Cam Jurgens is the next-highest-ranked at No. 117 overall. That’s a 110-player gap between the two players. Arizona State’s Dohnovan West is the next-highest ranked at No. 136 overall, followed by Virginia Tech’s Brock Hoffman at No. 138 and Utah’s Nick Ford at No. 144.
And it’s not a particularly deep draft at center after Jarrett Patterson of Notre Dame, Ricky Stromberg of Arkansas, Grant Gibson of N.C. State, Brett Neilon of USC and Alex Forsyth of Oregon all decided to forego the draft and return to school.
So it’s no sure thing that Philadelphia will get a crack at the next-best centers in the draft, either.
Instead, the team might have to consider guard-to-center converts, and one of the highest-ranked would be available in the second- to third-round range: Memphis’ Dylan Parham.
Parham will face scrutiny for his size, as he’s listed at 6-foot-3, 285-pounds.
By comparison, Philadelphia rookie Landon Dickerson – who played center at Alabama – is 6-foot-6, 333-pounds. The starting centers in the NFC East are bigger, too, including Dallas’ Tyler Biadasz (6-foot-3, 316-pounds), the New York Giants’ Billy Price (6-foot-4, 308-pounds) and Washington’s Chase Roullier (6-foot-4, 312-pounds).
However, his template for playing the position at that size would be Kelce, who is the same height as Parham and is listed as only 10 pounds heavier.
If anything, Parham would give the Eagles options, especially if Kelce signs elsewhere or retires. Parham has started 51 games along the offensive line since starting out as a 2-star recruit as a tight end. He has started 28 games at left guard, 12 at right guard and 11 at right tackle.
But what would he look like at center? We’re about to find out, as Senior Bowl Director Jim Nagy is reportedly going to give Parham reps at center, according to NFLSapient. You can read their scouting report on Parham here.
Either way, he’s an ascending prospect. Parham allowed just 19 pressures on 1,047 pass-blocking snaps at right tackle and right guard the past two seasons, according to Pro Football Focus. The Athletic’s Dane Brugler recently listed Parham as the No. 5-ranked interior linemen in the 2022 draft, adding that his size and skill set means a move to center “is probably best for his long-term future.”
From Brugler: “He reminds me of Shaq Mason because of his lateral quickness, knee bend and the way he consistently rolls his hips to leverage blocks and control his man.”
Regardless of which center the Eagles draft, history says he will play as a rookie – and maybe even start. Last year’s draft is a good example.
Of the nine centers drafted last year – which includes Dickerson, who was moved to guard – all but one played this season, while six of them started at least four games. That includes:
.@MemphisFB Dylan Parham is an easy-moving former TE who has played both OG & OT and might project best at OC. Head Coach Ryan Silverfield raved to us about @dilly_pill this summer at @OLMasterminds. That initial quickness 👇! 😳#TheDraftStartsInMOBILE™️#BestoftheBest pic.twitter.com/ZpGXS5Y3hh
— Jim Nagy (@JimNagy_SB) October 2, 2021