Being a rookie in the NFL on the first day of training camp is hard enough. Now imagine being a rookie, and being asked to play an unfamiliar position.
That was the situation Frank Ragnow found himself in right about this time one year ago. A first-round pick of the Lions in 2018, Ragnow was the best available center in the draft. In fact, he was graded the top center in the nation by Pro Football Focus as both a junior and senior while at Arkansas. His offensive coach at Arkansas, Kurt Anderson, told The Athletic last April that Ragnow is about as natural a center as a coach can find.
But interior linemen in the NFL have to be versatile, and Ragnow was asked to make the move to left guard last year. He played all but one snap there during his rookie campaign. He played some games at right guard in college, but had never played left guard before. He admittedly had an up and down first year.
Now Ragnow comes into his second season feeling much better about where he is as a player, not just because he has a year under his belt, but because the Lions have moved Ragnow back to his more natural center position.
"Each year, whether you're in high school, college or professional now, every year the game slows down a little bit," Ragnow said after Thursday's first training camp practice. "Now that I got that one year under my belt – I'm not saying I'm doing anything great or anything like that – but the game has slowed down. I feel more comfortable. I've obviously played center in college and it's a position I'm familiar with."
Ragnow had the benefit of making the move to center to start the offseason training program back in March, so he's been at that spot throughout the entire install of new coordinator Darrell Bevell's offense.
This is also Ragnow's second season under offensive line coach Jeff Davidson, who's brought a lot of stability to the o-line room.
There definitely seems to be a greater aura of confidence surrounding Ragnow as the Lions start training camp. The year under his belt certainly helps, but so too has the return to playing the position that earned him a first-round grade in last year's draft.
"The expectations are always going to be high," Ragnow said. "Myself individually, and I think all of us. It's a new year and that's the beauty of this league. It's a new year and we just have to stack one day at a time and that's how we're going to get to the ultimate goal."