The Big Gamble
Potential Makes Fragel Intriguing Option for NFL GMs This Weekend
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — It took less than a year for him to make the transition, but Reid Fragel’s journey to become an NFL prospect on the offensive line has been a lifetime in the making.
At 6-8 and 300 pounds, he looks like the prototypical offensive tackle prospect. His combination of strength and athleticism makes him an even more intriguing option for any team in the National Football League hoping to bolster its offensive line in this weekend’s draft.
His quick feet and chiseled frame had pro scouts practically salivating over his potential during Ohio State’s Pro Day back in March, but Fragel has played a total of 12 games on the offensive line since he graduated from Grosse Point South High School back in 2009.
“I’ve always been a lineman at heart,” said Fragel, who played three years of tight end before switching to offensive tackle as a senior.
“Even though I was at tight end, I was used as a blocking tight end. I was never catching 60-yard bombs or anything like that. I’ll leave that to (roommate Jeff Heuerman).
“Way back to ‘Pop Warner’ football, I’ve always been a lineman, so it’s not something that’s new to me.”
Reid Fragel (77)
moved to the head of the line of OSU offensive linemen as a collegiate seinor. Now he's hoping to do the same in the NFL.
Photo by Jim Davidson
Except that’s exactly what it was when Fragel chose to make the switch from tight end to offensive tackle last offseason. Despite his impressive frame, Fragel was only 260 pounds back in high school and was brought in by former head coach Jim Tressel and his staff to bolster the tight end position at Ohio State.
It wasn’t until his senior year, when a coaching change facilitated a new style of offense in Columbus, that Fragel finally made the switch. It didn’t take long for the big guy out of Michigan to feel right at home at his new position.
“From day one it was a challenge, but being a competitive guy I like challenges,” Fragel said this spring.
“The constant push from (head coach Urban Meyer), (offensive line coach Ed Warinner) and Kirk Barton; they did a phenomenal job pushing me from day one. That helped me get to where I am today. I owe a lot to them.”
Barton, a former All-Big Ten right tackle himself, thought the move would help Fragel’s future stock at the next level. It turns out he was right.
“His future, if you look at the NFL, the tight ends are 4.5 guys (in the 40-yard dash),” Barton, now a graduate assistant at Ohio State, told The-Ozone.
“Reid is a super athlete for a tackle, but he’s an average athlete for an NFL tight end. If you’re looking at long-term, Eric Winston did it and he’s almost a Pro Bowler. He made $40 million over his contract.”
Winston was one of the most highly-touted tight ends in the country coming out of Robert E. Lee High School in Midland, Tex. He signed with Miami (Fla.) in 2002 and played in 13 games as a blocking tight end for the Hurricanes during his freshman season.
He moved to offensive tackle before his sophomore year and emerged as one of the ‘Canes best offensive linemen. He was drafted in the third round and played six seasons with the Houston Texans before signing with Kansas City last year.
New England Patriots’ tackle Nate Solder had a similar story at the University of Colorado.
“I looked at him a little bit. I guess you could say I idolize him a little bit,” Fragel said of Solder, who was the second offensive tackle chosen (No. 17 overall) in the 2011 NFL Draft.
“I kind of look at him and can’t help but think I could do something like that.”
Photo by Jim Davidson
Fragel started all 12 games for the undefeated Buckeyes at right tackle last season. He earned honorable-mention All-Big Ten honors and posted strong numbers at the NFL Combine back in February.
The 6-8, 300-pound tackle ran the 40-yard dash in 5.09 seconds and bench pressed 225 pounds 33 times. He registered a 30-inch vertical leap, a 9-5 broad jump, a 4.68 20-yard shuttle and a 7.62 three-cone drill.
That was enough to draw interest from a number of NFL teams, including the past two Super Bowl winners: the Baltimore Ravens and New York Giants. Fragel also visited the New England Patriots, Miami Dolphins and Chicago Bears.
The Detroit native has also reportedly drawn interest from the hometown Lions and, most recently, held a private workout for the Cincinnati Bengals.
“I wanted to show my pass footwork,” Fragel said on OSU Pro Day.
“I was working with (former Ohio State All-American) LeCharles Bentley out in Arizona and I feel a lot more comfortable doing pass sets.”
Fragel spent much of the offseason training with Bentley in Arizona alongside former Buckeyes Alex Boone and Michael Brewster, as well as Pittsburgh Steelers’ offensive tackle Max Starks.
ESPN.com ranks him as the No. 14 offensive tackle in the draft, which begins Thursday night (8 p.m. ET, ESPN & NFL Network) in New York City. NFL.com has him at No. 9 on their list.
Most experts are projecting him to come off the board between the third and fifth rounds during the 2013 NFL Draft, but Fragel isn’t going to spend much time worrying much about the experts.
“You hear everything, you can’t take that stuff too seriously,” he said.
“You hear guys in the past projected to go in the third round and they go undrafted. I try not to listen to that stuff too much and just focus on what I can control.”
Fragel realizes there will be doubts about his footwork and technique after only one season of offensive line at the college level. He also knows he made a lot of believers during that one year.
“There’s definitely doubts that come with only having a year, consistency being one of them,” he said, “but I’d like to think I opened a lot of eyes early on there. I have a lot more tread on my tires than a lot of these O-linemen and that’s a positive.”
Reality says Fragel probably would not even be on the NFL’s radar this weekend if he had stayed at tight end for his senior season at Ohio State.
“I couldn’t be happier with where I’m at right now,” he said.
“I’m very comfortable and excited with what the future holds. I think my best football is ahead of me.”
Which is exactly why some team might take a flyer on Fragel a little earlier than expected this weekend.
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