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Green and Bold: Is Reggie Ragland Overrated?

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Green and Bold: Is Reggie Ragland Overrated?

Reggie Ragland is the top linebacker in this year's draft class, but some think he's not worthy of a first-round selection.

Reggie Ragland is the top linebacker in this year's draft class, but some think he's not worthy of a first-round selection.

There's no doubt that the Packers' biggest need in the draft is an inside linebacker, but that doesn't mean they'll be drafting one in Round 1. 

Or Round 2.

Or Round 3. 

Need and value overlapping in the draft is a beautiful thing when it happens—and we all know that when it doesn't, the Packers are more likely to go BPA than to reach for a prospect at a critical position. 

But if the Packers were to come out of Round 1 with an inside linebacker, many fans and analysts alike would breathe a small sigh of relief, knowing that though nothing is certain when it comes to rookies, Green Bay would at least be attempting to strengthen its most glaring weakness, bringing a player into camp who could feasibly compete for a starting position next to Sam Barrington in the base defense. 

In 2016, however, there's only one inside linebacker worth considering in the first round: Alabama's Reggie Ragland. 

And opinions on him differ wildly. 

Some Packers fans (and national analysts) think Ragland is the missing link in the Packers defense, convinced he won't be available by the 27th overall pick. 

Others think Ragland isn't even worthy of a first-round grade—and for all we know, Ted Thompson and his team of scouts could agree. 

Let's break down both sides of that debate, weighing Ragland's pros and cons and deciding whether he would really be a wise selection if he is, indeed, on the board when the Packers select at No. 27 on April 28. 

To start: the positive. No one is under any illusions that Ragland is the best inside linebacker to come out of the draft—or even out of Alabama—recently. He's no C.J. Mosley.

But Ragland offers enough that some team will almost undoubtedly make him their first selection on Day 1.

He's versatile, projecting best inside in a 3-4 but also should attract the attention of teams running a 4-3 defense, as well. 

In 2015, Ragland led the Tide with 97 tackles, including 6.5 for loss, and broke up six passes. He was named SEC Defensive Player of the Year and won All-American honors.

He knows how to use his size (6'1", 247 pounds) to his advantage, boasting an aggressive play style that keeps him moving from his first steps to his closing burst. Some worry that aggression could translate to durability issues, but he didn't miss many games at Alabama, playing 15 in 2015, 13 in 2014, and 10 in 2013. 

Another plus for Ragland that has surely caught Thompson and defensive coordinator Dom Capers' eye is his ability to rush off the edge, which he did for the Tide in certain subpackages. In fact, in order to show off his versatility, Ragland played at outside linebacker in the Senior Bowl. 

The Packers truly need a three-down defender inside, which Ragland is still trying to prove he can do, but Capers loves to use his players in innovative ways in the Packers' hybrid scheme, rarely playing in a true 3-4 base. In addition to being the run-stuffer that Green Bay needs, Ragland could develop into a good coverage linebacker in the NFL. 

Then, there are the intangibles—football IQ, motor, and the like.

Though his pass-rushing prowess was missed on the outside, Clay Matthews was a natural fit on the inside given his leadership ability and intelligence; he could quarterback the defense. Ragland's intellect is similarly impressive. 

"Alabama runs probably the toughest defense in college football to understand, and he ran the show," an anonymous scout told Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Ragland sat down with Andy Benoit of the MMQB to break down his film and prove that he could be a three-down linebacker:

As with any draft prospect, however, Ragland has his detractors. 

Greg Gabriel of Chicago Football, for instance, calls Ragland "overrated." 

"I see him as a solid second round selection but in almost every mock draft I have seen, he is rated as a mid-first round pick," Gabriel writes. 

What most concerns Gabriel about Ragland is, in his view, his lack of anticipation. He believes that Ragland benefited from playing behind a stout defensive line and that it inflated his production. 

CBS Sports' Rob Rang and Dane Brugler, meanwhile, are concerned that Ragland takes "overaggressive pursuit angles" and that he leaves his eyes in the backfield too long. 

While there's no question that Alabama's defensive line was one of the nation's best last season, it's clear from watching the film that Ragland is capable of making plays happen. 

Some will derisively refer to Ragland as a thumper, but the truth is that the Packers need a hard-nosed run defender up front. If they can get that in Ragland and also find they have a player who can drop back into coverage on third downs, they would be lucky to land him at No. 27. Let other teams call him overrated. 

The question, of course, is will be available?

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (39) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Horse's picture

"There's no doubt that the Packers' biggest need in the draft is an inside linebacker, ..."

Only 8 more days before we can move on from determining the Packers' most dire needs to firing TT.

Has anyone noticed that NT is thin?

GBPack's picture

I'm more concerned with getting a decent 5 tech vs NT. Guion and Pennel can man the nose. The need isn't as big as most analysts mocking for the Packers make it seem, IMO. You can find big bodies in any round and in UDFA.

Ross Uglem's picture

It's OK for nose tackle to be thin when they only use a nose tackle 10 or 15 times a game, sometimes less against passing teams.

Evan's picture

The last thing I want is a thin nose tackle.

croatpackfan's picture

Nice overview Michelle.
I can not agree on one claim you put here... Packers' biggest need in the 2016 draft is not an inside linebacker. Missing B. J. Raji and 4 games from Mike Pennel, my opinion is that Packers' biggest need is NT or DT. To allow ILBs to play strong and good you need very good to excellent front line. Without good D line there is rare ILB who can play well.
Also I think we may be good with ILBs Packers have, as run stoppers, what Packers need is 3 down ILB who can cover, and we need that kind with immediate production. Of course, Dom Capers might have another plans, but at this point of time we do not know Packers plans with positions on either side of the ball!

fg_311's picture

So what was your verdict Michelle?? Overrated or not overrated?

dobber's picture

I don't know if he's overrated or not...I would just argue he's not what the Packers really need. At least not in round 1.

mnbruton's picture

Sorry, my conclusion in the final paragraphs may not have been clear! I say not overrated. Sure, he may not be as good on third downs as other starting ILBs will be, but I do think he's a viable option to start at ILB and worthy of a 27th overall pick.

fg_311's picture

Isn't that what need though a great 3 down lb? I'd rather get Deion jones in the 2nd or 3rd guy, the guy ran a 4.38 40 we need speed at the position. Raglands 40 time scares me

RCPackerFan's picture

My biggest question about Ragland is how good is he?

Was he very good because of him, or the players in front of him? That is my biggest question. With 2 first round DT's playing right in front of him, how much did that help Ragland?

I do think Ragland will be a really good player, I do question how good he will be.

I think the Packers can find some really good ILB's in the 2nd-3rd round area.

L's picture

I'm mostly concerned about his ability to play coverage and grabbing an ILB who could be a 3-down backer and be the guy in the Dime package is the only reason to select an ILB in the first round IMO. Simply put -- I'm not convinced Ragland is that guy.

However, maybe Clay could be the Dime guy and Ragland could serve as one of our inside guys for Nickel and Base, but I'm still not sure I'd use a 1st round pick on him if he's only going to be a consistent weak link in coverage.

dobber's picture

If Ragland has some "value added" trait that we're not seeing that can all change. Maybe the Packers see him as being an underutilized pass rusher and want to get him on the field in that role. I don't know. But I agree with you on what he appears to bring to the table.

ray nichkee's picture

You get the big guys early before they are gone. The DL needs a few additions. I can't remember being this excited for a draft. I hope there isn't disappointment ahead. A few good ILBs will be there day 2. I don't think ragland is bad but I'm not for spending a 1 on a guy that can't step in day 1 for all 3 downs at ILB.

EdsLaces's picture

Yup. There is way too much talent on the DL to pass up.

Evan's picture

Devil's Advocate: There is so much talent on the DL that you can get 1st round talent in later rounds, so the value pick would be to address other areas first.

EdsLaces's picture

True. Tons of talent will be there in round 2 for DL. But I think the first rounders like Rankins Billings etc have pro bowl talent compared to the 2nd rounders just being solid players. Only my opinion obviously.

dobber's picture

Many of those second rounders would have been first or borderline first-second rounders in other recent drafts.

RobinsonDavis's picture

I agree with your point, Ed. According to many "experts", if the Pack opts towards the D-line, they have the possibility of grabbing a mid-1st round talent with this year's #27. Given Ted's so-so performance in drafting D-linemen, I feel he needs to be careful not to overthink this. Imagine a top NT next to Daniels, and how this could enable Daniels even more, and take pressure off the ILBs? Imagine a top-rushing end on the other side. Again, this will help everybody. Though I admit, I would not be disappointed with Ragland either.

MarkinMadison's picture

I'm with Michelle. Moving CM3 to the inside for the last year-and-a-third tells you all you need to know about ILB. You can tell me that I'm not appreciating Ryan's potential, etc. Problem is you need two competent ILBs, and really you need one of the two to be very good. Otherwise you make Kaepernick look like a Hall-of-Fame player. Otherwise Russell Wilson exploits you. Otherwise Cam Newton dominates you. And I haven't even mentioned handling RBs and TEs coming out of the backfield.

Raji's gone. I get it. I was a Raji fan. He was not irreplaceable. Pennell is suspended for four games. I get it. You patch over and make do. You don't build your roster around a four game suspension.

We just have to wait and see how the board falls.

Horse's picture

The next PED violation by Pennel = a 1 year suspension.

jeremyjjbrown's picture

Every story says Substance Abuse Policy so it was not PEDS.

The NFL has different policies for the two.

holmesmd's picture

I'm pretty sure it was the sweet leaf as is most often the case;) Happy 4/20! LOL

Razer's picture

... We just have to wait and see how the board falls...

Ultimately, this is the reality of the draft. If there is a run on QBs and WRs, we will have our pick of D-line talent. Let's hope that the teams picking ahead of us do a lot of reaching and we can pick some low hanging fruit.

RCPackerFan's picture

I would love to see a run on QB's ahead of the Packers. That will mean 1 or 2 players that shouldn't fall to the Packers likely will.

I can see a scenario in which 4 QB's could go ahead of Green Bay. Rams, Browns, Cowboys, 49ers, Eagles, Jets, and Broncos could all be looking for a QB in the first round. I can see a team trying to trade up ahead of the Broncos to get that 4th QB.

dobber's picture

I would love to see someone get nervous enough about a run on QB and WR that they allow the Packers to trade down and garner some extra middle-round picks.

RCPackerFan's picture

I honestly would love to see it as well. For example if the Browns decide to not take a QB with the 2nd pick but then got nervous and decided to trade back up into the first round to get one.
The Packers would move back 5 picks and pick up an extra 4th round pick and possibly a 7th round at the very least based on the draft trade value chart.

dobber's picture

....and still have a pretty good shot at getting whichever player they coveted at #27. Four 4th rounders and still getting that player early would be a nice little package.

RCPackerFan's picture

Might be a bigger possibility now that the Browns traded away the #2 overall pick. They may look to move up to get a QB. They have plenty of ammo to move up now.

dobber's picture

To quote the immortal Vince Lombardi: "What in the hell is going on out here?!?!"

RCPackerFan's picture

Draft time of the year. Time for the Crazies to come out.

Evan's picture

Really nice move for Cleveland. They need so many pieces and they'll still get someone elite at 8.

RCPackerFan's picture

I completely agree...

I do wonder though now if they are going to be looking to trade up to the end of the 1st for a QB. Right now they will be drafting 1 spot after the Broncos. Maybe try to get ahead of Denver to get the QB they want.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

I feel I ought to acquit Dobber of having an ulterior motive for his support for trading back to #34: the reason being that his draft crush, Butler, might still be available at #34. On second thought, nah!

Littlejim51's picture

Reggie R is no Bobbie Wagner more like AJ Hawk
If Darron Lee is available and also one of the top 4 DL/NT it would be a hard choice
I 'd go for the NT and pickup one of those safety/Lb in round two or three

holmesmd's picture

I'm sure you are all aware that I am on the J Brown train for a true WILL LB'er! He's exactly the guy we need and I hope to god that we can find a way to get him. I like the kid actually much more than even Lee who is also fantastic. Brown is as strong as a bull, jumps like a gazelle, and runs like a deer! Great instincts and makes plays ALL over the field. I agree with COW on this one, the kid might be the most entertaining player to watch in the whole draft!? I can't imagine that he makes it to #57 but I guess anything is possible? We shall see in 8 short days. Draft Town here we come!

4thand1's picture

I like big time players from big time programs, draft

The TKstinator's picture

But Richard Rodgers is already in the fold!

DrealynWilliams's picture

I think you missed the "time" part. R. Rodgers is just big... =)

mrtundra's picture

Does TT pull the trigger on Ragland if he is the BPA when GB's first round pick comes up? I have no idea, myself. TT could draft a RB, for all I know. After last year's draft, would anyone be surprised by anything TT decides?

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