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'It starts up front': Lions draft Arkansas OL Frank Ragnow

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News
Arkansas' Frank Ragnow was the top-graded offensive lineman as a senior last season by Pro Football Focus.

Allen Park — The Detroit Lions could have gone a number of different directions with the team’s first-round pick in the NFL Draft, but opted to address its offensive line, selecting Arkansas offensive lineman Frank Ragnow with the No. 20 pick Thursday night.

The addition of Ragnow, a three-year starter at Arkansas, completes general manager Bob Quinn’s three-year overhaul of the team’s offensive line. In 2015, Quinn drafted starters Taylor Decker and Graham Glasgow before signing T.J. Lang and Rick Wagner to lucrative free-agent contracts last season.

“I think it starts in the trenches,” Quinn said. “I think it starts up front. We want to build through the middle of our team, through the offensive line, defensive line and through the middle. And that’s kind of what we believe in.”

The 6-foot-5, 312-pound Ragnow was Pro Football Focus’ top-graded offensive lineman as a senior last season. He started the final 33 games of his college career, including the final two years at center. He earned first-team All-SEC honors and was named a third-team All-American in 2017.

More: Draft gives Patricia first chance to lay his groundwork with Lions

The early expectation is Ragnow will replace Travis Swanson at center, although Ragnow played some guard at Arkansas. Swanson signed with the New York Jets this offseason.

Swanson, another former Arkansas center, served as a mentor to Ragnow. The Lions rookie talked about how Swanson offered support when Ragnow’s father passed away in 2016.

“He helped me throughout my college career,” Ragnow said at the scouting combine in February. “When my dad passed away, he was there for me. He’s always been giving me advice for my senior year. He gave me advice last year when I was thinking about leaving and he talked me through it. This past week he gave me advice on interviews and what not to say.”

For a team that finished last in the NFL in rushing last season, Ragnow’s nasty demeanor will be a welcome addition up front.

“I just think one of my favorite things about playing football is finishing,” he said during a conference call with Detroit media. “The thing that’s great in the trenches is just battling and trying to put another man on his back against his will.”

Prior to the Detroit’s selection, the night was filled with surprises, in big part to the Cleveland Browns bucking expectations not once, but twice at the top of the draft. After weeks of debate whether the Browns would take USC’s Sam Darnold or Wyoming’s Josh Allen with the first overall pick, the NFL’s second 0-16 franchise tabbed Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield to be their franchise signal-caller.

Three picks later, the Browns passed over pass rusher Bradley Chubb, who many analysts considered the best player in the draft, for cornerback Denzel Ward.

In total, four quarterbacks were selected in the top 10, with the Buffalo Bills and Arizona Cardinals trading up to snag passers. Buffalo climbed from No. 12 to seven to take Allen, while the Cardinals swapped first-rounders with the Raiders to select UCLA’s Josh Rosen at No. 10.

The most surprising trade of the first round saw the Green Bay Packers send the No. 14 pick the New Orleans Saints in exchange for No. 27, a fourth-round selection and the team’s 2019 first-round choice. The Packers later moved back up to No. 18 in a trade with Seattle to take Louisville cornerback Jaire Alexander.

The draft continues Friday night with the second and third rounds. The Lions currently hold the No. 51 pick in the second round and No. 82 in the third round.

The Ragnow File

Name: Frank Ragnow

Position: Center

College: Arkansas

Round/overall: 1/20

Notable stats: Started 33 consecutive games for the Razorbacks

Analysis: Graded as the top center in the nation the last two seasons by Pro Football Focus, Ragnow also earned All-American honors as a junior and a senior. At 6-foot-5 and 312 pounds, Ragnow also played 15 games at guard for Arkansas. He did not allow a sack in his college career but played just seven games in 2017 after suffering a season-ending ankle injury.