The biggest news out of the first week of Detroit Lions Organized Team Activities is the offensive line shakeup. After preparing 2018 first-round pick Frank Ragnow for the guard position all of last year, Detroit trotted him out at center in the first two practices, suggesting there may be a positional change in the making.
It’s still very possible that the Lions are simply cross training their players to give them more versatility in case of injury. However, Pro Football Focus appears to be a big fan of making that move to center permanent for Frank Ragnow.
PFF’s Connor McGuinness explained why by looking and his grades at both a college level and from his rookies season in Detroit. The difference is clear as day. At Arkansas, he started his career at guard, but then moved to center for the final two years. The difference in grades is drastic:
Center: 92.5 overall grade, 81.6 pass block grade, 94.4 run block grade
Guard: 80.6 overall grade, 67.9 pass block grade, 86.6 run block grade
Of course, it’s hard to know whether this was simply Ragnow getting better over time or getting more comfortable head-manning the offensive line at center. His offensive line coach in college certainly seems to think Ragnow is right at home at the center position:
Ragnow's college O-line coach, Kurt Anderson, after the Lions drafted him: "He is about as natural a center as you’re gonna find. ... (He) sees the big picture, he sees the rotation of the secondary, how that adjusts things up front, gets you into the right call." https://t.co/gEuRez5jhF— Chris Burke (@ChrisBurkeNFL) May 23, 2019
Now potentially in a position where he was so dominant in college, McGuinness believes Ragnow’s ceiling is as high as they come.
“The reality is that the position change could be the difference between the Lions having a starting-caliber guard, and an elite-level center who could go on to be the best in the NFL,” McGuinness.
He’s not mincing words here. Not “one of the best,” “the best in the NFL.”
We obviously shouldn’t get ahead of ourselves here. Ragnow has literally played just a single NFL snap at center. However, everything from his college profile suggests he should be able to, and the Lions clearly think it’s a good idea to at least try him there.
As for Ragnow himself, he seemed pretty excited about the potential move when talking about the play-calling aspects a center gets.
“I enjoy that part of the game,” Ragnow said. “That’s a part of the game I really enjoyed in college, making all the calls, kind of leading the guys.”