Shawn Windsor, Dave Birkett and Carlos Monarrez debate on Detroit's startling Arkansas Center Frank Ragnow ranked 20th in the April 26 NFL draft.
Detroit Free Press staff, Detroit Free Press

Reassure yourself, folks. Get some air first. Or three. Then go for a walk. Come back home. Pop open a beer.


And admit: You have no idea what you see when you play a center, play soccer. At least not after he got the ball.

That's fine. Neither do I.

So slowly the indignation. Because the new Lions Center of Detroit Frank Ragnow could be in Pro Bowl in a few years.

Or not.

Who knows?

Nine Centers were taken in the first round of the NFL Draft since 2000. Five made the Pro Bowl. The last hit center – the Colts' Ryan Kelly – broke in 2017 after starting every game as a rookie and looking like a future Pro bowler.

Further 2018 NFL Draft Cover:

17 Prospects for Detroit Lions to Consider on Day 2 of the NFL Draft

Monarrez: I gave the Detroit Lions an F for the drafting by Frank Ragnow: Here's why

Watch: An Emotional Frank Ragnow Accepts the Draft of the Detroit Lions

In other words Centers as tall as Ragnow often justify their high slot in the design.

That's the good news.

The bad?

Ragnow sprained his ankle last season in Arkansas and missed the last five games. He had to undergo surgery to repair the damage. He told reporters late Thursday night he was feeling fine. Obviously, the Lions are not worried.

If he stays healthy, the story says he could make a difference. So did his resume in Arkansas, where he started three seasons and played his best ball against the best defense of the country's best conference – the SEC.

He plays a pivotal role in Lions' desire to win more than nine games; Championship teams – or teams near the championship – are almost always tough.

This way the pick makes sense.

Just ask a quarterback where he likes the least pressure, and the answer is always the same: head to head. Ask for a run back where he prefers a bit of natural light, and he will tell you if you are to the right or left of the middle.

When did you last see a Lion running back through the middle of the leash?


It seems like that, right?

If Ragnow is as good as Quinn thinks, he will change that. Immediately. And that's the point. He fills a gaping need. And fits the current philosophy of the franchise.


Detroit Lions GM Bob Quinn declares Arkansas Center Frank Ragnow's pick at No. 20 overall in the 2018 NFL Draft April 26.
Carlos Monarrez, Detroit Free Press

"I think it starts in the trenches," Quinn said. "I think it starts in front, we want to build the defense line through the middle of our team through the offensive line."

But, but … run back?

Right. The lions need help in the back room. It is a splashy place. Where highlights are cut off.

And if Quinn does not talk about the line of defense over this area in the next round, I'll howl with you. But here we advise it.

Which means that the first round was a matter of timing and value. The Lions are betting that Ragnow's job is better than the defensive linemen available or the running backs in 20th place would have been with them.

And yet that's not all. It's also about who can make the biggest difference the quickest.

Remember, when Quinn fired Jim Caldwell, he insisted he build a team that was better than his record – the Lions won 9: 7 last season.

Yes, he had to say that. Because he will not destroy his own movements.

Still, he believes he has a playoff team in the building. This can not lead to a long-term conversion.

"We just thought at the end of the day, Frank was the best player (available) … the guy who can help us the most – the fastest," Quinn said.


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At the moment the speed counts.

Obviously in the field. But up in Lions headquarters too. Where Quinn is determined to end half a century of front trolling by constantly building from within.

If nothing else, it's a plan. And if Ragnow feels like a range, that's not bad either. Quinn had to take a risk, needed a star-level player.

Not in glory. Not in endorsement potential. Not even in the ability to generate highlights.

But in performance. Ragnow has the chance to be that player.

So, yes, Quinn stretched out his neck on Thursday night in Allen Park and grabbed a player few saw. He even joked about it when he stepped onto the podium in the media room.

"Has anyone made the bill this year?" he said smiling.

No, they do not.

What matters is that he did it.

Contact Shawn Windsor: 313-222-6487 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @shawnwindsor.