The Lions went with a center in the first round of the 2018 NFL draft. We discuss what the move means for the roster and later in the draft. Justin Rogers, Detroit News
Allen Park — Halfway through his senior season at Arkansas, Frank Ragnow was the model of durability.
He had started 33 consecutive games — 13 at right guard as a sophomore in 2015, 12 at center and one at right guard in his junior season of 2016 and the first seven games of 2017 as the Razorbacks’ center. Ragnow was not only one of the best interior lineman in the country, he was tough.
But during Arkansas’ loss at home to Auburn on Oct. 21, Ragnow suffered a high ankle sprain. It knocked him out for the final five games of his senior season, one that ended with just four victories and ultimately cost coach Bret Bielema his job.
However, that injury didn’t deter Ragnow in his belief he would be a first-round pick in the NFL Draft, a belief that was validated on Thursday when the Detroit Lions selected Ragnow (6-foot-5, 312 pounds) with the 20th overall selection.
“To be honest, no,” Ragnow said when asked if he was surprised the injury didn’t hurt his draft stock. “I believe in my abilities and I knew that if I could just prove that my ankle was back to being healthy, I think the film didn’t lie. I’m just so excited that I’ve gotten to this point and here is where I am.”
Where he’ll be is with the Lions, who have invested heavily in rebuilding the offensive line since Bob Quinn took over as general manager. He selected starters Taylor Decker and Graham Glasgow in 2016 before signing T.J. Lang and Rick Wagner to lucrative free-agent contracts last season.
Now, the Lions get the versatile Ragnow, who, like Glasgow, can play center or either guard spot. And when they met with him at the NFL Combine in March, there was little doubt what he brought to the table.
“He was a guy that was pretty clean through the process,” Quinn said. “He’s coming back from an injury that he missed the second half of the season with an ankle. Other than the injury, he was a real, clean prospect that I didn’t really feel like we needed to do a whole lot of extra work on in terms of visit here or private workout or any of those things.”
Ragnow’s injury required a minor procedure, but by the time the Combine and pro day at Arkansas rolled around, Ragnow was 100 percent.
“The rehab process honestly went way smoother than I expected,” he said. “It was a very routine surgery that back in the day wasn’t even necessary, but it just really made sure that my ankle was good for the long run. And now, to be honest, it’s a normal ankle. I feel great and it’s been a couple months since I’ve even had any problems with it. It’s a normal ankle.”
Before the injury, Ragnow was the best in the SEC, arguably the best conference in college football. Pro Football Focus had him rated higher than any other center and, according to Arkansas, Ragnow did not allow a sack in his Razorbacks career.
It was enough for the analysts to be impressed with the Lions’ pick, regardless of missing time because of the injured ankle.
“He's a heck of a football player,” ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. said. “When you think about this pick here, he was injured Oct. 21 with a high-ankle sprain. He had a minor procedure. Before that, he was dominant for a center. In the Alabama game, look at the job he did there.
“He had a heck of a season going until that injury he's coming back from. You think about his size and physicality of Ragnow, he could be like (Pro Bowlers) Alex Mack, Nick Mangold and a heck of an anchor up front for you.”
No draft shock
It didn’t take long for the first round to produce a surprise as the Cleveland Browns took Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield with the No. 1 overall pick.
Most believed the Browns would take a quarterback, with Southern Cal’s Sam Darnold and Wyoming's Josh Allen getting most of the attention. However, it was the selection for Cleveland as Darnold went No. 3 to the Jets and Allen No. 7 to the Bills.
UCLA’s Josh Rosen was taken No. 10 by the Cardinals and the Ravens closed out the first round by taking Louisville’s Lamar Jackson at No. 32.
“Wasn’t really surprised,” Quinn said. “I think the Baker Mayfield pick is interesting. I mean, the guy’s a good football player. I don’t think everyone, you know, a week ago would have thought he was going to go No. 1 overall, but I wasn’t totally shocked about that myself.
“It’s interesting to see some of the players that teams took that we’re going to play, so that’s kind of — we sit there in the top 10 and kind of say, ‘All right, well, we’re going to see that guy, we’re going to see that guy, we won’t see this guy,’ so that’s kind of the way we look at things.”
The Ragnow File
Name: Frank Ragnow
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.