It's easy for the casual fan to underestimate the importance of having a solid center as a cornerstone of the offensive line. A quick look at history, however, shows that some of the greatest dynasties in NFL history have featured some of the greatest centers the game has ever seen. From Pittsburgh's Mike Webster to San Francisco's Randy Cross, an intelligent center often acts as an extension of both the coach and the quarterback, giving their respective teams an underrated leg up on the competition.
Michigan State center Brian Allen has the look of a guy who can fit that mold.
Pro Football Focus had Allen rated as the Big Ten's top center in 2017. The senior finished his career by making 27 consecutive starts, lining up at both center and guard during the streak. He's gone to war with some of the best defensive linemen to come out of college football over the last couple of seasons and held his own or won those battles outright.
Besides being able to flat out play the game at a high level, Allen also is what NFL teams are looking for from the neck up. He's a three-time Academic All-Big Ten honoree. He's also a former Illinois state high school wrestling champion, which tells you that he understands leverage and how to use technique and position to overcome anything he lacks from a physical standpoint.
His stature seems to be the only thing holding him down as far as most draft projections go. He's a little short for the position (6-2), which could be causing some teams concern for a variety of reasons. That's also the only explanation for two other Big Ten centers (Billy Price and James Daniels) being rated higher than him by most publications despite outperforming them.
At the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, look for Allen to put his athleticism on display, especially in the cone and shuttle drills. Between there and the interview, he should have no problem convincing a number of NFL teams to take him as high as in the third round — ahead of a handful of other centers currently projected to be drafted ahead of him.
— Written by J.P. Scott, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. His work has appeared on SI.com, FoxSports.com, Yahoo!, Bleacher Report and SB Nation. Follow him on Twitter @TheJPScott.