2012 NFL Draft: Grading the Detroit Lions Selection of Riley Reiff

James Van Etten@jbvanettenContributor IApril 26, 2012

Riley Reiff is a Detroit Lion. For the second year in a row, the Lions are the benefactors of a top-tier talent that slipped down the draft board and landed in the ecstatic arms of Martin Mayhew.

Riley Reiff, an unquestionable blue-chip offensive lineman, was second only to Matt Kalil in this year's draft and somehow floated all the way down to the 23rd selection.

With Jeff Backus manning the left tackle position for over a decade and having no replacement without health issues, getting a tackle that has started every game of his career is exactly what the Lions needed.

Reiff is a 6’6”, 313-pound offensive lineman from Iowa who has played both the tackle and guard positions during his three-year college career. He should immediately compete for the right tackle position and just may get a look at right guard.

His combine numbers were less than impressive, running a 5.23 in the 40 and only managing a pedestrian 23 reps on the bench and are part of the reason he slid down the draft board.

But games are not won or lost in Under Armour leotards, rather it’s what the player does on the field that truly matters and Reiff was a standout for the Hawkeyes.

His game fits perfectly to the Lions system. He is a tremendous pass-blocker who uses his exceptional lateral movement (sixth-best shuttle for tackles at 4.75) to escort the speed rushers up field or slip outside and seal the edge.

It’s the ideal combination for a team built to throw the ball, but also loves to get their speedy backs to the corner.

But Reiff can also buckle up the chin strap and get into the defender because of his natural hip roll and ability to stay low on contact.

He’s athletic in space and uses his hands well. He’s a technician that puts himself in good position which allows him to win most of the battles.

The knock on Reiff is he has shorter than ideal arm length for the position at 33.25” inches, but don’t tell that to the Cleveland Browns who are quite happy with their Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas who measures in at 32.5”

Bravo Mayhew, bravo. Staying put and not spending additional picks, like a Kardashian with a freshly stamped American Express Centurion card, was the right move.

Just like last year, making no move was the best move of all. To stand pat and upgrade the offensive line with an athletic left tackle with no injury history is precisely what the franchise needed.

Matthew Stafford could not be happier as he has a veteran left tackle protecting him today and a highly touted understudy who will soon be ready to protect the blindside of the franchise quarterback when the time comes.

Grade: A