The Iowa Hawkeyes have been known to produce NFL quality offensive linemen in bunches lately, and offensive tackle Riley Reiff continues that trend this year. Reiff is 6'6" 313 pounds, but light on his feet. He plays with a mean streak and a stunning punch, but there are concerns about his ability to translate to left tackle in the pros, like former teammate Bryan Bulaga, who is currently starting at right tackle after he was drafted 23rd by the Green Bay Packers in 2010.
Expert opinions on Reiff focus on the question of where he will fit in the NFL.
“ I feel much more comfortable taking him somewhere in the 20s. I think he’s a good player who’s a right tackle to start with, and ultimately, 2-3 years down the road, could develop into a left tackle. But I don’t see him as a guy you could plug in at left tackle Day 1 and say, ‘We’re good.’”
“You like Iowa offensive linemen, No. 1. (Iowa head coach) Kirk Ferentz really helps those guys coming in. Kirk has the ability to coach up offensive lineman. That’s his specialty. This is a guy that gets after you. He has a rugged approach. He’s really serious about his business. … He works on his game and practices hard. Arm length is an issue at left tackle. He doesn’t have the longest arms of the left tackles in this draft. That’s a concern at the left tackle spot.”
Despite Reiff's obvious limitations, I don't see him as an automatic switch to right tackle in the NFL. In power-blocking schemes like those run by the Tennessee Titans, Atlanta Falcons, and Miami Dolphins, he's got enough fundamental correctness to make it work. For a team passing 50 times per game, however, his inability to pass-block at the highest level with any degree of consistency will limit him. Moreover, I'm not sure how much higher his ceiling is -- Reiff has managed to find ways to get around his physical flaws (arm length; lack of optimal quickness in space) through canniness and coaching, but it's tough to know how much untapped talent remains.
No matter where he is lined up, Reiff is going to give his all and make an instant impact. He can be an impact right tackle right away and a "learn on the job" left tackle for a team with a hole at the position. He will probably have a bigger impact on the running game than the passing game at first, and may need help when matched up with speed rushers. Still, Reiff is one of the safest first-round picks and a likely 10-year starter in the NFL.
Analysis: Last time an Iowa offensive tackle projected in the top-15 fell into the 20s, Green Bay pounced on Bryan Bulaga. He's turned into a stud. The Lions hope they found the same in Riley Reiff, who will help give the Lions more push up front in the running game.