Well that wasn’t at all what everyone thought the Lions were going to do. Everyone at Pride of Detroit watched the draft with great anticipation. We all couldn’t wait to hear Roger Goodell announce that the Lions had drafted Harold Landry. We instead heard them select Arkansas center Frank Ragnow.
The room died. I’m not going to lie, the early thoughts were, “Yeah, I get it, but it’s not what I wanted.” Then we all came around after talking about it. The best way to really think about it is this: Imagine when you were 18 and your parents bought you your first car. You wanted a mustang and you got an Escort instead. I really did get the Escort, by the way. This bad boy here.
That seems like a let down when you’re a kid, b when you’re an adult, you think about needs more than wants. While a Mustang would still be cool, an Escort can get the job done. An Escort is the smart and sensible selection. So is Frank Ragnow.
Matthew Stafford got sacked more times in 2017 than any other year in his career. The Lions also finished 32nd in rushing again for the second straight season. Lastly, the Lions lost their starting center Travis Swanson to free agency. Ragnow was a need. But who is Frank Ragnow? It’s time to learn.
Usually I’ll head out to the area and meet up with the writer and explore the area, but I had some trouble with the fuzz in Arkansas awhile back. And while I eventually paid that speeding ticket, I’m afraid to go back. Plus, the pick just happened. So I got in touch with Bob Holt of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for answers. Here’s what he had to say about Frank.
POD: What are your overall thoughts on Ragnow’s time at Arkansas?
ADG: ”Frank Ragnow is one of the best players and best people I’ve come across in more than 30 years of covering Arkansas football. His talent is obvious from his career numbers and the fact the Lions drafted him in the first round, but he also was great to deal with from a media standpoint—always a standup guy for interviews even after tough losses, great sense of humor, very intelligent and outgoing.
Ragnow was a well respected team leader and elected a captain by the players, and his coaches thought the world of him. Bret Bielema, his coach at Arkansas who had several NFL offensive lineman at Wisconsin and Arkansas, has said Ragnow is the best linemen he’s been around since Joe Thomas, the Outland Trophy winner at Wisconsin who had a great career with the Cleveland Browns. Georgia offensive line coach Sam Pittman—who coached Ragnow for two seasons at Arkansas—attended his draft party in Minnesota on Thursday night. Ragnow’s also a very tough player mentally and physically. When Ragnow was a junior in 2016, his father, John, passed away from a heart attack the Saturday before Arkansas played Alabama.
Ragnow went home to be with his family and didn’t practice that week, but after his father’s funeral he returned to Arkansas, started against Alabama and played very well, drawing praise from Crimson Tide Coach Nick Saban.“
POD: What are his strengths?
ADG: “I think Ragnow has a lot of strengths. Probably what stands out most to me are his versatility, consistency and athleticism for a big guy.
Ragnow started 33 consecutive games at Arkansas—19 at center and 14 at guard—before suffering a season-ending ankle injury against Auburn last year. His recovery from that injury was about a month ahead of schedule, which enabled Ragnow to have an impressive pro day at Arkansas and no doubt raise his draft stock considerably. According to Arkansas’ stats, Ragnow played 2,603 snaps without giving up a sack. Ragnow injured his ankle in the first quarter against Auburn—a severe sprain that required surgery—but he played the rest of the game.
There is video of the 6-5 Ragnow dunking a basketball—on a regulation goal. He had a vertical jump of 33-0.5 inches at his pro day when he also ran the 40-yard dash in 4.98 seconds. Ragnow is very fast and quick for a lineman and he did a lot of pulling at Arkansas and showed off his ability to move well and deliver punishing blocks. I believe he was a better run blocker at Arkansas—really physical and dominating in lot of cases—but he was a good pass blocker as well playing in a pro-style offense.”
POD: What are his weaknesses?
ADG: “I’m probably biased, but I don’t think Ragnow had any glaring weaknesses. I’ve seen some draft reports that say he needs to get stronger. I suppose that’s true to some extent— what NFL rookie doesn’t need to add strength?—but he bench-pressed 225 pounds 27 times at his pro day and in workouts has done as many as 36. He never redshirted at Arkansas, and he just turned 21 on May 17, so he is still pretty young and has room to get bigger and stronger.“
[Editor’s note: To be clear, Ragnow turns 22 on May 17]
POD: Can Ragnow make an impact for the Lions right away or is he a project?
ADG: “Considering Ragnow’s talent and work ethic, I expect him to start as a rookie whether it’s at center or guard, have a lengthy career and develop into a Pro Bowl-type player.”
POD Bonus Question: Is Ragnow an upgrade over former Razorback Travis Swanson?
ADG: “Swanson was a really good player at Arkansas—a four-year starter after he redshirted—and I know he started for the Lions, but I believe Ragnow is more talented and has a higher ceiling. There’s a reason the Lions picked him in the first round.”
Some good stuff from Bob here. We’d like to thank Bob for helping us out so quickly on draft night. If you’re looking for more info on the Razorbacks, check out Bob’s work at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.