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Is Brian Allen the best option at center for the Rams in 2023?

PFF Ranks Brian Allen as the 12th best center in the NFL

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NFL: Seattle Seahawks at Los Angeles Rams Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Rams will have some big decisions when it comes to the offensive line this offseason. The goal will be to roll out the five best offensive linemen in Week 1. However, finding out who those best five are and where they’ll play is where the predicament lies.

Who is the team’s left tackle? Is it Joe Noteboom who started there last season before a season-ending achilles injury or Alaric Jackson who played well in his place? At center, do the Rams go with Brian Allen who played at a top-10 level in 2021 or Coleman Shelton? These are just a few of the questions that head coach Sean McVay and offensive line coach Ryan Wendell will need to figure out.

While the center position may not hold a lot of positional value, a good center can make a difference on the offensive line. This is something that the Rams have found out the hard way. As they head into 2023, it’s a difficult decision between Allen who has played well, but can’t stay healthy and Shelton who has been fine when he’s played.

Pro Football Focus ranked the NFL’s best centers heading into the 2023 season. Coming in at number 12 on their list was Allen. Here’s what PFF’s Gordon McGuinness had to say,

“Allen’s career took a big step forward in 2021, his third season after entering the league as a fourth-round rookie out of Michigan State in 2018. He finished that season as the 10th highest-graded player at the position while his 79.7 PFF run blocking grade ranked eighth.”

The best ability sometimes is availability. There’s no doubt that Allen surprised many in 2021 as he ranked as a top-10 center in the NFL. However, he simply hasn’t been able to stay on the field. Allen missed much of the 2019 season with an injury and once again was out for most of 2022. Despite having a resurgence in 2021, Allen still missed a Week 14 game against the Arizona Cardinals. While he technically played against the Jacksonville Jaguars and Minnesota Vikings, he was on the field for less than 27 percent of the snaps in those games.

Being injury-prone on the offensive line can be detrimental. It’s crucial for an offensive line to be able to build continuity and it’s hard to do that when one position is a constant turnstile of new players coming in.

In games that he started at center last season, Shelton actually had the fifth-highest pass-blocking grade according to Pro Football Focus among centers. Contrarily however, his run-blocking grade ranked last.

Still, if he can improve his run-blocking, there may be something to build off of here. Shelton allowed just one pressure at center which was the best in the NFL. There may not be that much a drop-off, especially in pass protection with Shelton at center. The issue then becomes what the Rams do at right guard. Do they opt to go with Tremayne Anchrum or Jackson in that spot? Do they make the decision to sign Dalton Risner who is still a free agent?

If the Rams want the best five offensive linemen on the field, that might mean playing Allen at center despite his injury history. Shelton’s best game last season came against the Las Vegas Raiders at right guard.

Who plays at center for the Rams in 2023 is an interesting conversation. However, if healthy, that player should probably be Brian Allen.