OT Riley Reiff (Iowa) - Round 1, Pick No. 23
When the Detroit Lions went on the clock at No. 23 overall, they had the good fortune of getting to choose from a talented group of players for their pick. Guys like Riley Reiff, David DeCastro and Whitney Mercilus were just some of the players available for the Lions, and they ultimately went with Reiff, electing to fill a need on the offensive line, specifically at offensive tackle.
Reiff has the foot quickness, balance, playing strength, and flexibility to play either tackle position. He was a three time heavyweight wrestling champion in high school which shows me he has the strength and the no quit attitude to be successful. He should immediately improve a NFL team's offensive line unit with his versatility and overall toughness. He will be a solid pro for years to come.
Reiff came to Iowa as a defensive end and a former high school heavyweight wrestler, moved to offensive line after a redshirt year, and quickly became the best lineman on an eleven-win team with a future first-round left tackle (Bryan Bulaga) and two other eventual draftees. The next year, he assumed Bulaga's position on the left flank and never left. He never suffered a serious injury, never begged off the front line. He's tough, he's nasty, and he's tenacious. He's also an Iowa left tackle, which means he was trained by the guy who used to coach Jonathan Ogden with Baltimore and a gaggle of offensive linemen you know from Sundays, so you're getting a pro-ready technician. He's also good at running naked from the police.
Showcases the ability to bend with good foot quickness and range in pass protection. Also displays an explosive element to his game as a run blocker. Needs to be more consistent with his footwork and would like to see him develop a bit more as a puncher in order to keep himself clean. Nevertheless, has the athleticism, flexibility and pedigree to mature into a solid starting left tackle in the NFL.
Reiff is an impressive tackle prospect. He started every game in his career and was very durable considering how heavily Iowa relied on its run game. He is a smart player who should be able to adapt to NFL speed and playbooks with ease. Given that he plays at a position with such value, it's unlikely that Reiff will last past the first round.
Positives: Outstanding pass blocking left tackle with a solid game. Fundamentally sound, consistently blocks with leverage and quickly gets his hands into defenders. Displays good footwork in space, has solid blocking range and moves well on his feet. Quick out to the second level, stays square and keeps defenders in front of him. Keeps his head on a swivel and works well with teammates. Displays the ability to adjust to oncoming defenders, easily picks up stunts or twists and knocks opponents from the action with good hand punch.
Negatives: Lacks a dominant base and gets minimal movement run blocking. Marginally explosive at the point.
What he brings: While he doesn't have the big feet you look for in a franchise left tackle, he's a plug-and-play right tackle. He's got the balance and enough length to hold up on the right side. More importantly, he's a mauler who can move defenders off the ball as a run-blocker.
How he fits: He will probably learn for a year behind aging LT Jeff Backus, who was coming off a biceps injury and this will likely be it for Backus. They like young Jason Fox as a swing tackle, but he could easily end up on the right side to improve that position. If Reiff can step in and protect Matthew Stafford's blind side, it will be a nice upgrade to an offensive line that is not great and still has work to do.
- Reiff vs. Nebraska (2011)
- Todd McShay breaks down Reiff pick
- Reiff's 2011 combine workout
- SB Nation's draft profile of Reiff
- Reiff highlights on Fox Sports' draft preview
- NFL.com's draft profile of Reiff
- XOS Sports' draft profile of Reiff
- Offseason interview with Reiff (2011)
- Interview with Reiff at 2011 Insight Bowl
Outlook for 2012
With all five of the Lions' starters on the offensive line returning, it remains to be seen where Reiff fits into the picture in 2012. It seems unlikely that Reiff will get the starting nod at left tackle over a healthy Jeff Backus this year, so the thinking is he will challenge Gosder Cherilus for the starting job at right tackle or possibly Stephen Peterman for the starting job at right guard. Even if he doesn't break into the starting lineup this year, the Lions will be busy grooming Reiff to one day take over for Backus at left tackle.