Lions Wanted To Keep Interest In First-Round Pick Ragnow 'Under The Radar'

His surprise at being drafted by Detroit was evident when the team called to let him know.

Will Burchfield
April 27, 2018 - 1:52 am
Feb 24, 2016; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Detroit Lions general manager Bob Quinn speaks to the media during the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium.

© Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

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Frank Ragnow figured his phone would ring sometime in the middle to late stages of the first round of the draft on Thursday night, but he didn't expect the Lions to be the team to call. They hadn't spoken with him since the scouting combine nearly two months ago. Turns out that was by design. 

The Lions didn't want to give away their hand before drafting the center from Arkansas 20th overall

"To be honest, I was pretty surprised," Ragnow said in a conference call with local reporters. "They actually mentioned that on the phone, that they really tried to keep it under the radar, their interest in me. I was very surprised, but I’m so, so excited to be a Detroit Lion." 

Ragnow met with Quinn and the Lions coaching staff at the combine in early March, and that was the last of their communication until Thursday night. Quinn, who first took a liking to Ragnow upon watching him play last October, said the Lions didn't need to vet him any further once they were assured his surgically-repaired ankle was fine. 

"We had a good meeting there. ... 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 a visit here (to Allen Park) or a private workout or any of those things," Quinn said. 

Ragnow suffered a high ankle sprain in October that cost him the final give games of his senior season, but recovered in time to take part -- and turn heads -- at Arkansas' pro day last month. He said the rehab process went "way smoother" than he expected.

Heading into Thursday night, he was optimistic about his chances of being drafted. 

"From what I had heard, I knew it was going to be either late first round to middle first round. I knew that once we got to pick 15, that was kind of when I had a chance, so I kind of had the expectation. But then again, you really don’t know," Ragnow said. 

His surprise at being drafted by the Lions, of all teams, was evident when the team called to let him know. The Lions, on the other hand, were pretty level-headed about the whole affair. They had been eyeing Ragnow for a while and expected him to be on the board at No. 20. 

When it came their time to pick, they didn't have to think too hard. 

"The first time I watched him play on tape I kind of thought, 'Wow, this guy is a really good player,'" Quinn said. "Going back the last couple weeks as we fine-tuned the board and kind of (saw) who was there and who might be available, it was pretty clear that he would probably be there. We thought it was going to be close, and we got some word from a few teams after us that they were interested in him as well, so I think the time was right to pick him." 

Ragnow began his career at Arkansas as a guard before switching to center as a junior. That's where he played for most of his senior season, aside from one game against Alabama when he was shifted back to guard. His performance in this game caught Quinn's eye. 

For the Lions, position versatility was probably Ragnow's most appealing asset. That, along with his toughness, intelligence and work ethic, made it a "real easy pick," Quinn said. Though there were other players available at No. 20 that would have addressed team needs, such as Boston College edge rusher Harold Landry or Florida defensive tackle Taven Bryan, the Lions never hesitated to take Ragnow. 

"We obviously had Frank higher on the board than all those guys," Quinn said, "and we think he’s a better fit for us." 

It marks the third straight year Quinn has made a big investment in Detroit's offensive line. He spent a first-round pick in 2016 on left tackle Taylor Decker and made two splash signings in free agency in 2017 in Rick Wagner and T.J. Lang. Those three, along with Ragnow and guard Graham Glasgow, have the makings of a dominant front five. 

It's all part of a vision shared by Quinn and head coach Matt Patricia.  

"I think it starts in the trenches, I think it starts up front," Quinn said. "We want to build through the middle of our team, through the offensive line and defensive line. That’s kind of what we believe in. Going through the evaluation process there was a lot of guys on the board that we liked, we just thought Frank was the best player at that time, the guy that could help us the most and the quickest."