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Five things to know about Buffalo's newest linebacker, Reggie Ragland

The Buffalo Bills were prepared to take Reggie Ragland with the 19th pick in the first round of the NFL Draft.

So when he was still there at the end of the first round Thursday night, General Manager Doug Whaley got to work, calling each team at the top of the second round looking to move up to make sure the Alabama linebacker landed in Buffalo.

Eventually, Whaley found a dance partner in Chicago, and the Bills got their guy.

Here are five things to know about the 41st overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft:

1. Like first-round pick Shaq Lawson, he comes with a medical concern. Ragland was flagged for having an enlarged aorta, according to a report from the NFL Network.

Whaley made it clear the Bills had no concerns about the condition.

“We were taking him at 19,” he said. “No concern at all.”

Ragland said he learned of the condition during testing that is conducted annually at the NFL Scouting Combine.

“They ran some tests and said I was fine,” Ragland said. “I still went to a specialist ... to see if I was fine, and he said I was fine.”

Ragland said the condition will require him to get an annual checkup, but “other than that, I am ready to go. Ready to play.”

To acquire Ragland, the Bills traded their second- and fourth-round picks this year (No. 117 overall) and a fourth-round pick next year to the Bears for the 41st pick.

"Not for a caliber player this high," Whaley said when asked if he had any consternation of trading away two picks. "For us, for what we need and what he brings to this team and the type of player – a fourth-rounder this year when we have two and a fourth-rounder next year – we thought we made out on it."

 

2. Ragland’s bio page on the Alabama website calls him the “heartbeat of the Crimson Tide’s powerful defense.” A unanimous first-team All-American, he won the Southeastern Conference Defensive Player of the Year in 2015 after finishing the season with 102 tackles – 29 more than the next closest defender.

Ragland led Alabama in tackles eight times in 2015. The Crimson Tide finished first in the nation in rushing yards against (75.7 per game), third in scoring defense (15.1 points per game) and third in total defense (276.3 yards per game).

In 53 career games with 29 starts, Ragland racked up 222 tackles, four sacks, 17.5 tackles for loss, four forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries, 10 passes defensed and one interception. He made the All-SEC first team the last two years.

3. Ragland's winning pedigree was appealing. In Lawson and Ragland, the Bills have chosen players from the two teams that participated in the national championship game. In the past four seasons, Alabama has a 50-6 record.

“He’s a winner and he’s a leader,” Whaley said of Ragland. “He’s going to come in on this defense and he’s going to bring something to this defense that we need, and that’s just that, knowing how to win.

“These last two guys have won national championships or been in national championship games, so we’re bringing in winners, fellas.”

4. He’s capable of moving positions. Ragland played weak-side linebacker for the Crimson Tide in 2014 before moving to middle linebacker for his final year.

Most scouting reports painted him as a middle linebacker in the NFL, but Whaley said the Bills plan to use Ragland at weak-side linebacker next to Preston Brown.

“This guy’s athletic,” Whaley said. “Don’t let the size fool you.”

Ragland is listed at 6-foot-1 and 247 pounds. He ran a 4.72-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine.

“I think a lot of people just pegged him as a ‘MIKE,’ but with the expertise of our coaches, they said, ‘yeah, we could put him at WILL,’ ” Whaley said. “I mean, why not, he’s faster than some of the guys that we were going to think" about "at WILL.”

Not surprisingly, Ragland said he’s up for the challenge of playing a new spot.

“I can do it,” he said. “You give me the opportunity so I can show you I can. I’m not scared of competition. I’m not going to back down from nobody. That’s how I’ve always been. I had to earn my way at Alabama to play and that’s what I’m gong to do here.”

5. Ragland was a highly decorated recruit. The native of Madison, Ala., chose the Crimson Tide over Auburn and Florida. He had a five-star grade from recruiting service scout.com and ranked as that website's No. 1 middle linebacker prospect and No. 9 overall.

Ragland also played basketball at Bob Jones High School, participating on a state championship team in 2009-10.

Growing up in the South, it's not a big surprise that Ragland's knowledge of his new town is limited at the moment.

"When I went up there I know it was a small town, but I know when it's Sundays, I know it rocks up there," he said on a conference call with Buffalo reporters. "That's what I feel I need."

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