Chris Simms: Ragnow Can Be The Best Center In Football

"I think the Lions knocked it out of the park with that pick." 

Will Burchfield
May 01, 2018 - 2:39 pm

© Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

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Frank Ragnow, a player who sent Lions fans scrambling to Google when the team drafted him 20th overall last Thursday, may soon be a household name. In fact, NFL analyst Chris Simms told the Valenti Show on 97.1 The Ticket that Ragnow has the makings of one of the best players at his position. 

"Ragnow is a special center, he really is, and centers are extremely valuable this day and age in the NFL. Defensive tackle has become a new freak-of-the-world position. You gotta block the Fletcher Coxes and the Aaron Donalds of the world, sometimes one on one, while snapping the football at the same time," Simms said. "That takes a twitchy, explosive athlete.

"Ragnow is a guy that can be in the conversation for the best center in football. He’s truly that special, so I think the Lions knocked it out of the park with that pick." 

The initial response among the fan base was lukewarm -- cold, even -- but by and large opinions seem to have come around. Ragnow, rated one of the best players in the draft by Pro Football Focus, projects as an anchor on the interior of the offensive line for the next several years. On top of his athleticism and smarts, he's a fierce worker who plays with a mean streak, which especially appeals to head coach Matt Patricia

While it's uncommon for a center to be drafted in the first round, recent history suggests it's a worthy investment. Of the six centers who were first-round picks in the last 10 years, only one -- Cameron Irving, 23rd overall to the Browns in 2015 -- didn't pan out. The five others have combined for 448 starts and 15 trips to the Pro Bowl. And that doesn't include seven-time Pro-Bowler Nick Mangold, who was drafted 29th overall by the Jets in 2006. 

Aside from his position, Ragnow's relative obscurity entering the draft was due to an ankle injury that cost him the final five games of his senior season at Arkansas. Even so, the Bengals were reportedly prepared to pick him at No. 21 had the Lions drafted someone else. But general manager Bob Quinn, who was high on Ragnow from the moment he watched him on film last October, didn't hesitate to add what could be the final link of a dominant offensive line. 

It was "a real easy pick," Quinn said. 

Quinn was also quick to pull the trigger on a trade up the board in the second round to draft running back Kerryon Johnson. That's another player who appeals to Simms, so much so Simms compared him to Le'Veon Bell and, for good measure, Matt Forte. 

"Kerryon Johnson, I loved him. I mean, he was in the conversation for one of the best backs in the draft," Simms said. "He wasn’t Saquon Barkley and he wasn’t Sony Michel, but he was maybe that next step down. I liked him more than I liked Derrius Guice coming out of LSU.

"Kerryon Johnson has a unique style, I think everybody in Detroit’s going to like it. A little bit Le’Veon Bell-ish. He comes up to the line of scrimmage and he doesn’t just hit the hole, he kind of waits. He’s really slippery, he’s got good speed, I compared him to Matt Forte when Forte was coming out. I think it’s a great pick." 

Guice, rumored in the leadup to the draft to be a target of the Lions at No. 20, was ultimately drafted 59th overall by the Redskins. It was a precipitous and surprising fall, one that Simms attributes to questions about Guice's character.

"He didn’t have the greatest reputation going into the process. I think that teams were taken aback by just him as a person. I don’t think everybody felt comfortable, they felt he was a different guy. The NFL is very right-wing, conservative frame of mind. They don’t necessarily always like players that think outside of the box or are different," Simms said. "We just saw this with Josh Rosen." 

Rosen, arguably the best quarterback in the draft, fell to the Cardinals at No. 10 amid concerns about his outspoken ways. 

"Derrius Guice is a little bit of a different guy," Simms went on. "I just heard from too many of my friends around the NFL that just said, 'Yeah, he’s a little weird, and we weren’t necessarily comfortable putting him in our locker room.' I don’t think it was any one specific thing -- I don’t have any one specific thing -- but I kind of heard that phrase over and over with him." 

Simms also commended Detroit's fourth-round pick of defensive end Da'Shawn Hand and its fifth-round pick of tackle Tyrell Crosby. 

"Da’Shawn Hand has a chance to be something special out of Alabama. When he’s healthy he was a first- or a second-round pick type of guy. And then the kid Tyrell Crosby from Oregon, he played tackle in college, he’ll play guard in the NFL, but there’s potential there," Simms said. "I really think Patricia and Quinn did a great job."