Eagles Should Consider Drafting Riley Reiff to Fill in for LT Jason Peters

Yueh Ho@@YuehHoCorrespondent IMarch 31, 2012

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - FEBRUARY 25: Offensive linemen Riley Reiff of Iowa (right) and Matt Kalil of USC look on during the 2012 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on February 25, 2012 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

The news of the loss of Jason Peters, one of the best left tackles in the NFL, is a huge blow to the Eagles. Peters and left guard Evan Mathis contributed to a dominant left side of the offensive line that opened up holes for LeSean McCoy to make plays all season long.

However, the Eagles are fortunate that this injury occurred before training camp and before the NFL draft, as opposed to Week 6 of the regular season. The team will now have plenty of time to plan for how to replace Peters.

It will be difficult to do so, as Peters is the best link on an Eagles O-line that drastically improved last season. But it is a task that the Eagles must attempt nonetheless.

The best course of action for the Eagles would be the draft. Free agency would not be the best option, as there are few impressive left tackles available. The Eagles could make a play for Demetrius Bell, but he is not a dominant pass blocker nor an impressive run blocker. He also has an injury-riddled past and may not be 100 percent.

The Eagles still have the 15th overall pick. Due to the DeMeco Ryans trade and the re-signing of DeSean Jackson, there is no longer any need to select a linebacker or a wide receiver. The team has the opportunity to select either Jonathan Martin or Riley Reiff.

Reiff would be the safer pick of the two and would be worth it even if it means the Eagles have to trade up.

The Eagles would likely need to give up their 15th overall pick and a second-round pick to trade up to the 10th overall pick. But it may be well worth it. Reiff is an impressive athlete, as he was a once a tight end and was converted to a lineman. He has very quick feet and a wide frame. He also is great in pass protection.

The downside for Reiff is that he has very short arms. But so does Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas, and Reiff makes up for this with his quick feet and agility. An athlete such as Reiff is exactly the kind of tackle Howard Mudd needs on the O-line to block for Michael Vick.

Martin is less impressive. Despite having a reputation for athleticism, Martin disappointed at his pro day, showing a lack of speed and strength. While it is impressive that he protected Andrew Luck's blind side for many years, many are concerned that his athleticism may not be as good as previously believed.

Reiff, on the other hand, performed well during blocking drills. He also posted a 29.5-inch vertical jump and recorded 26 strength reps. Reiff has all the skills to be a good NFL left tackle, and the Eagles would be wise to trade up for him.

The Eagles have five picks in the top four rounds, and they can afford to trade a few of them to make sure they obtain a quality left tackle. McCoy's production will likely suffer, as it is difficult to replicate the dominant run-blocking that the Eagles get from Peters.

But the Eagles passing offense can still dominate so long as a serviceable left tackle is obtained, as Vick is left-handed and the left side would not be his blind side.

With a first-round draft pick, the Eagles can certainly get a tackle who can be expected to be at least an average NFL pass blocker. And if Reiff impresses, the Eagles could have a left tackle for the future, as it will be difficult for the 30-year-old Peters to recover 100 percent from his injury.

A full training camp to work with Howard Mudd would also get the young rookie up to speed as quickly as possible, an advantage that last year's rookies, Danny Watkins and Jason Kelce, did not have. Losing Peters is a huge blow to the Eagles' O-line, but obtaining Reiff (or Martin if Reiff were selected very early) would be the best way to reduce the damage.