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With the 23rd pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, your Detroit Lions select Riley Reiff, Offensive Tackle from the University of Iowa! In my opinion, the fact that Riley Reiff was still on the board when the Lions selected at 23rd pick was shocking. Offensive Tackle is a position that is always in high demand, and given that Reiff was widely considered to be a top 15 talent, the Lions got a steal in selecting him with their first round pick Thursday night.
To bring you up to speed on Reiff, he is a 6’6″, 313 pound Offensive Tackle from the University of Iowa. Reiff was considered to be the second best Offensive Tackle prospect in the 2012 NFL Draft behind USC Offensive Tackle Matt Kalil (who went off the board to the Vikings with the fourth pick). Reiff had an impressive career at Iowa where he started every game during his time there. He is an extremely athletic lineman who possess strong pass protection skills which the Lions clearly value being that they run such a pass happy offense. Perhaps the most underrated aspect of Reiff’s game is his run protection skills that are clearly above average as he starred in an offense that was primarily run first, which was also attractive to the Lions who desperately need to improve their run game. His biggest weakness might be his short arms (33″), which is only average for an NFL Offensive Tackle. Reiff is considered to have the ability to play both sides of the line, more than likely starting on the right side before possibly shifting to the left side in years to come.
The pick has received mixed reactions from Lions Nation, as several fans wanted to see the Lions address the defensive side of the ball and more specifically the secondary. It was reported a couple hours prior to the draft that they were attempting to trade up in hopes of selecting South Carolina Cornerback Stephon Gilmore. As it turned out, Gilmore was the second Cornerback selected, going off the board to the Buffalo Bills with the tenth pick. The Jets were reportedly trying to trade out of the 16th pick, which had the Lions pulled the trigger on a deal with them, they would have had the ability to select Cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick ahead of the Bengals who ultimately selected him with the 17th overall pick. What this tells me is either the price was too high to move up or the Lions simply did not value Kirkpatrick enough to trade up. As it played out, the Lions stood pat and held at 23, and did what great teams do, they selected the best player available. Being that Reiff was projected as such a premium talent, the Lions maximized the value of their 23rd pick by selecting him, and that is all you can ask for.
I quite possibly might have been the only person that was celebrating this selection. It is certainly not the flashiest pick by any stretch of the imagination, as offensive line play is regarded as quite boring to begin with. Reiff was at the top of my offensive line wish list for the Lions to select at 23, but I have to be honest, I did not think there was any chance we landed him with that pick. He simply was not supposed to be on the board when it came time for the Lions to pick. The Lions expressed the due diligence of what great, playoff-calibre teams do in the draft, they waited, and waited, and pounced on the best player that was left to them, even though it was not their primary need. This is what teams like the Patriots, Packers, and Steelers do year in and year out, and it is what makes them perennial contenders. I applaud the Lions front office staff and coaching staff for doing their homework, not mortgaging the future by trading up, and making the correct selection. It has been a long time since the Lions have had a management staff that understands what it takes to win and how to address needs through the draft. It is very apparent that GM Martin Mayhew, Head Coach Jim Schwartz and company know what they are doing.
Reiff possesses a skill set that was very attractive to the Lions, who believe that he will be a starter this season. The Lions ranked 29th last season, turning in 95 rushing yards per game, which is poor to say the least. As I mentioned, Reiff starred in an offense that relied heavily on their run game in his time at Iowa. This fact undoubtedly drew the Lions attention, who need to improve their run game in order to open things up down field even more for Matthew Stafford and the passing attack. This pick is a home run in my opinion, as I see Reiff pushing Jeff Backus for the starting Left Tackle position this season. If not, Reiff would more than likely win the starting Right Tackle position, as they develop him to be the heir to Backus’ throne. With Reiff now in the picture, it is definitely going to cause some shifting amongst the offensive line for the 2012 season. To me, this may not be the most glamorous pick, but it is a statement pick to be sure. They have made a huge investment in budding Superstar Quarterback Matthew Stafford, and as I alluded to in my draft preview article, the time has come to protect that investment.
I would like to see the Lions address their defensive issues in the second and third rounds. Janoris Jenkins still remains on the board, although it is believed he will be selected early in round two. Should he fall to the Lions however, it is a no-brainer pick for them given their need for Cornerbacks and the fact that Jenkins is a first round pick if not for his off field issues. An interesting story out of Dallas this morning, after drafting Morris Claiborne with their first pick, they are ready to deal young Cornerback Mike Jenkins. Should the price be only a middle round selection, the Lions should seriously consider making this move, especially given the fact that he is still under his rookie contract, which is a bargain for a starting Cornerback. No matter what they decide to do tonight in rounds two and three, the Lions are off to a great start in this year’s draft after knocking their first pick out of the park!
My grade of the Lions first round selection, Riley Reiff: B+
More to come tonight after the Lions make their selections. Special thanks to NFL.com for providing their prospect analysis of Riley Reiff.