Reggie Ragland allowed himself to be disappointed only for a moment. The first round of the NFL draft had been completed and his name had not been called. Disappointed, certainly. But then it was “Look ahead.” In Ragland’s view, there is a purpose for what happens.
That purpose is now to play inside linebacker for the Buffalo Bills.
Ragland wasn’t the only one caught off guard by being available in the second round as a consensus of mock drafts had him in the first, perhaps the first player taken from the 2015 National Championship Team of Alabama Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban. To go 41st overall makes him one of the bargains of the draft.
Ragland was the defensive leader, statistically and emotionally, of one of the nation’s best defensive teams.
The 6-foot-1, 247-pound Ragland led Alabama in tackles with 60 primary stops and 42 assists, was in on 6.5 tackles for loss of 23 yards, including 2.5 sacks for 10 yards. He broke up 7 passes, had 6 quarterback pressures, and caused two fumbles.
While he had the advantage of playing behind a very good defensive line that left him open to step into the hole, he handles that physical job very well. He understands the concept of playing with his eyes, grasps the concepts of angles and leverages, and has good instincts.
Although no one at the pro level cares much about college honors, it is not insignificant that he was a unanimous All-America and Southeastern Conference Defensive Player of the Year.
Ragland is about much more than numbers and honors. Many expected him to declare for the 2015 draft, but he elected to return to Alabama, earn his degree, and improve himself as a player…following the lead of his predecessor at middle linebacker, C.J. Mosley.
Ragland was the unquestioned leader of the Alabama defense, and it was no surprise that he was elected team captain.
As the middle linebacker it was his responsibility to make defensive front calls against what are increasingly no-huddle fast-paced college offenses. He handled the responsibility in great part because of his dedication as a student of the game, and particularly of the game plan. He is the type player who will know not only his assignment, but the assignments of his defensive teammates.