FAYETTEVILLE -- Frank Ragnow ended the Arkansas Razorbacks' nine-year drought without a first-round NFL Draft pick on Thursday as the Detroit Lions made the versatile offensive lineman the 20th pick at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
Ragnow, a native of Victoria, Minn., is the first Razorback to be taken in the opening round since running backs Darren McFadden and Felix Jones were taken by the Raiders and the Cowboys, respectively, in 2008. He is the second University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, offensive lineman to be a first rounder and the first since the Eagles selected tackle Shawn Andrews with the 15th pick in 2004.
"We['ve] got a guy that's smart, tough ... and can help us run the ball and help us protect our quarterback, and someone that can play a couple different positions inside, so we're excited," first-year Detroit Coach Matt Patricia said at the team's draft party. "This is a guy with great traits, great character, hard worker, everything that we're about. Blue-collar type of guy that we know is just going to make us tougher up front."
Ragnow became Arkansas' 22nd first-round draft pick. He was the fourth offensive linemen taken, behind Notre Dame's Quenton Nelson and Mike McGlinchey and UCLA's Kolton Miller.
Ragnow elected to return for his senior season rather than declare as an underclassman following the 2016 season and the move paid off even after he suffered a season-ending ankle injury on Oct. 21.
"He was a dominant center," ESPN analyst Mel Kiper said. "He had a heck of a season going until that injury. He's a guy, like an Alex Mack, a Nick Mangold ... going to be a heck of an anchor for you."
Ragnow was rated the No. 19 player available in the draft by the NFL Network's Mike Mayock. ProFootballFocus gave the 6-5, 312-pounder its highest grade among centers each of the last two years. Ragnow made 42 starts at Arkansas and did not allow a sack in 2,603 snaps, according to the UA.
Ragnow watched the draft from his home in suburban Minneapolis among a large crowd of friends and family, including current Razorback Hjalte Froholdt and former Arkansas offensive line coach Sam Pittman.
Ragnow is going to the same team that last picked an Arkansas center. The Lions selected Travis Swanson in the third round of the 2014 draft and the Kingwood, Texas, native started 42 games before signing a free agent deal with the New York Jets this winter.
Ragnow talked to the Lions' team website at the NFL scouting combine about learning from Swanson.
"Yeah, he's actually mentored me," Ragnow said. "He's been great. He was there for me when my dad passed [in 2016] and was there for me in my college career. He's given me advice on how the interviews will go, what to say and what not to say, how to prepare for today and everything. It's pretty cool he keeps up with me every day."
Patricia had been the defensive coordinator at New England the past six years for a franchise that frequently drafted or signed former Razorbacks, including defensive linemen Trey Flowers and Deatrich Wise Jr., tight end A.J. Derby, linebacker Brooks Ellis and receiver Cody Hollister.
Ragnow was the first center selected, one choice ahead of Ohio State's Billy Price, who went to the Cincinnati Bengals.
Ragnow, a first-team All-America choice by Pro Football Focus and CBS Sports, made 33 starts at center and guard before suffering a severe ankle injury in week 7 against Auburn. Ragnow played through the injury, which required surgery, for the rest of that game, earning plaudits from NFL personnel.
"Yeah, I've gotten a lot of respect for that," Ragnow said. "I guess that a positive out of it, is that I'm willing to play hard."
Mayock speculated the Lions would move second-year guard Graham Glasgow to center and work Ragnow in at guard.
Pete Prisco of CBSSports.com gave the Lions a B-plus for choosing Ragnow at No. 20.
"He's the draft's best center and can also play guard," Prisco wrote. "The Lions have to get better inside, and Ragnow will make that happen."
Carlos Monarrez of the Detroit Free Press gave the Lions an F for the selection, calling it terrible and writing "This is way down the need list, after running back, defensive tackle and edge rusher. And Ohio State's Billy Price, who went to the Cincinnati Bengals with the next pick, was widely considered a better center. Completely underwhelming and not good value at No. 20."
DetroitLions.com listed the projected picks of 26 experts for the Lions' first-round pick and none of them chose Ragnow.
Sports on 04/27/2018
Print Headline: Lions pick Ragnow with 20th