Centers are perpetually underrated and underappreciated. They are never the glamour guys—they're in the pit on every snap, working their way through double-teams and blocking nose tackles who may outweigh them by 30 pounds. They’re frequently tasked with the line and protection calls that allow offenses to adjust to defensive strategies. You don't tend to notice how important it is to have a good center until you don't have one anymore. The Seahawks provided an instructive example last season when they traded Max Unger away for Jimmy Graham in the 2015 offseason, and thought they could replace him with a kid named Drew Nowak, even though Nowak had never played the position before. Nowak was an utter disaster, and had to be replaced to save Seattle's season. Not that it was his fault—he was at the mercy of a coach in Tom Cable who forgot what every line coach should have tattooed somewhere on his body: Without a great center, your offensive line, and subsequently your entire offense, won't go very far.
Here are the best centers heading into the 2016 season—the men who, noticed or not, keep their offenses together.
Just missed the cut
Alex Mack, Falcons: Mack was once the gold standard at the position along with Nick Mangold of the Jets, but he's been dealing with injuries of late. He's still a good player though, and he should benefit from Atlanta's zone-blocking scheme under offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan.
The next big thing
Ryan Kelly, Colts: The Alabama alum is thought to be one of the most complete and well-developed centers to come out of college over the last few years. The Colts selected him with the 18th overall pick in the 2016 draft to keep Andrew Luck upright and provide much-needed excellence in an offensive line that has underperformed for far too long.