Friday, April 27, 2012

Riley Reiff Gives the Lions Options

...with the 23rd pick of the 2012 NFL draft the Detroit Lions select Offensive Tackle Riley Reiff out of Iowa.

The Lions lucked out and two of the best lineman of the draft still were on the board at number 23 in Standford Guard David DeCastro and Iowa Tackle Riley Reiff. I thought they'd pull the trigger on DeCastro, but I think Reiff's versatility gave him the edge. Reiff can play all five positions along the offensive line, six if you count tight end, which gives the Lions some flexibility throughout the rest of the draft and going into camp.

Reiff will end up at left tackle eventually, but where will he go in the meantime?

It's highly possible that he could step in immediately at left tackle and relieve Jeff Backus, but the Lions just re-signed Backus to a two-year $6 million contract and he finished out the 2011 season playing at a high level. The Lions have some time to let Reiff adapt to the rhythm and tempo of the NFL before making him guard Matthew Stafford's blind side.

The Lions could stick Reiff at right guard, but at 6'6" and 300 pounds he doesn't exactly fit the ideal body type for an NFL guard. Not to mention Stephan Peterman actually played pretty well in 2011 (excelling in pass blocking, but struggling in run blocking). The left guard spot is being manned efficiently by Rob Sims who is only 28.

Another option, which I think is most likely, is that Reiff comes into camp ready to challenge Cherilus for the right tackle position (a battle he should easily win) and move to left tackle in 2013. This would give the Lions three starting-caliber tackles on their roster allowing them to release (or trade?) Corey Hilliard who played poorly as a fill in last season.

This move would be especially easy for the Lions if Jason Fox and/or Johnny Culbreath show up to camp ready to play football. If one of them looks like they could man the right tackle spot when Reiff flips over to the left side it would make Cherilus expendable as trade bait or he could simply ride the pine in his contract year and then walk. If they both look ready to play it would give the Lions the option to let Cherilus, Hilliard, Fox and Culbreath to battle it out for one or two roster spots.

Wherever Reiff starts his NFL career he will give the Lions offensive line a boost it sorely needs.

It will be interesting to see if the Lions snag any other offensive lineman in this draft. Amini Silatolu, Brandon Brooks, Mike Brewster and David Molk are all possibilities. One of Detroit's biggest question marks could quickly turn into a strength.

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