The Cincinnati Bengals are in desperate need of center help and Arkansas center Frank Ragnow is the top prospect for the job.
The Cincinnati Bengals have already improved their offensive line this offseason by trading back in the first round for left tackle Cordy Glenn from the Buffalo Bills. There is still a considerable amount of work that needs to be done to better this offensive line unit for new offensive line coach Frank Pollack. Arguably the biggest need is at center after center Russell Bodine left for Buffalo and the only other player on the Bengals roster that has played an NFL snap at the position is T.J. Johnson.
Most of the offensive line attention leading up to the draft is going to Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson who is likely to be a top ten selection. Regarding the center position, most of the hype is on Ohio State Billy Price and Iowa James Daniels. Forgotten about is Arkansas center Frank Ragnow who I think is better than both of those centers and has starting experience at guard as well.
According to Pro Football Focus, Ragnow grades as the second-best lineman, best center, in this year’s draft. He doesn’t own some of the physical traits that Nelson has but has graded fairly similar. Ragnow graded above 85.0 for PFF for three consecutive years, 93.7 or higher his last two, and before getting hurt in 2017 rated at 95.1.
Centers usually give up the least amount of pressures on the quarterback but it’s still phenomenal that in his entire career with Arkansas taking over 2,600 snaps he never gave up a single sack (Price gave up 12 sacks in his career at Ohio State). In those 2,603 snaps for Ragnow, he only ended up allowing 35 total pressures between the center and guard positions.
Ragnow has some very impressive numbers in the passing game but his bread and butter are in the running game. When watching the film on Ragnow, his abilities in the run game are what really stand out. He can hold his ground in the center to open a lane for the back, reach the second level, or pull outside and lead the way for his back. All of these things Ragnow does extremely well.
In the play above, Ragnow moves to the second level and completely takes the linebacker out of the play leaving a huge hole for the running back to reach the first down marker. He does a great job at finding assignments when not given one immediately and is one of the best second-level blockers, easily best in this draft class of centers, in this year’s draft. An area that the Bengals have struggled with is linemen that can get to that second level.
Whether at center or guard, Ragnow has the ability to anchor down the middle. His size and power make for a great player along the interior and playing both positions for Arkansas his play never went down by playing one position over the other. He was consistently elite at both guard and center and that’s something that is very valuable at the next level is his versatility along the offensive line.
Playing against a strong defense of Alabama he still had a remarkable game while playing out of position. Ragnow spends this entire game at right guard for Arkansas. Even against elite defenders he held his own and made big plays while playing from a different position than normal.
From both guard and center, Ragnow can pull outside and block. His awareness and timing in the open space are remarkable. In this play from the guard position he gets outside and see’s Ronnie Harrison coming down and once engaging in the block then turns his body to put Harrison inside and leave the outside boundary wide open for the running back. He had another great pull against Ole Miss where he saw the safety coming down and took him all the way out of bounds to ensure the first down for the running back.
While Ragnow is not the most athletic guy you will find in the draft, he makes up for it with his awareness and angles that he takes to get to his blocking assignment. Look at offensive lineman Zach Fulton who just signed with the Houston Texans. He spent his first four years with the Kansas City Chiefs stepping in for either guard or center to fill in during injuries and played well at both and now is reaping the benefits.
Ragnow would be a great addition to the Bengals offensive line group whether at guard or center. Considering the desperate need for a center that would likely be his role. Offensive line coach Frank Pollack, who came from Dallas and helped shape that elite offensive line, will be looking to find his center that will lead his line. Ragnow is the best fit for this group and is the only center I would be willing to take in the first round of the draft.
In an extremely loaded interior line group, there are still good options that will likely be there in the third round even. Either Price or Daniels will also likely be there when the Bengals choose in the second round. Centers are rarely taken in the first round but with the versatility that Ragnow has, it would not surprise me one bit.