Friday, April 26, 2013
Clarity ensues for Lions and Riley Reiff
By Kevin Seifert
If it wasn't apparent already, the Detroit Lions made it clear Friday evening: Riley Reiff will be their left tackle in 2013.
The Lions could have drafted a left tackle in either the second or third rounds of this draft, but instead they selected Mississippi State cornerback Darius Slay and Kentucky guard Larry Warford, respectively. Both players fill needs and were better value picks than a left tackle, a position that drops off significantly after the top of the first round, and the Lions weren't in desperate shape there to begin with.
As we discussed Thursday, we'll never know how interested the Lions were in drafting an elite left tackle and moving Reiff to right guard or right tackle. The draft's top three left tackles were all off the board when the Lions' turn arrived at No. 5. Conventional wisdom suggested they would have taken advantage of the opportunity to have a stronger line across the board, but they have no incentive to confirm that now.
Lions coach Jim Schwartz told Detroit-area reporters, in fact, that the Lions were prepared to use Reiff at left tackle as soon as they learned of Jeff Backus' retirement.
"That's why we drafted him," Schwartz said. "Again, when Backus got hurt last year, that's why we played [Reiff] there. You never say never. You never know who is going to become available, what's going to happen. But we drafted him as a left tackle. We thought he could play right tackle, we think he can play guard.
"You know, Riley, if you gave him time, could probably play center too. He played tight end for us. He's that kind of athlete. He's a guy that can move around and do those things, but we drafted him as a left tackle. Probably, with the way things ended up here, we'll probably start him off there. We have a lot of confidence in him. I mean, that's why we drafted him last year. Last year, Riley was the second offensive lineman picked."
Reiff will play next to veteran left guard Rob Sims, and it's assumed that veteran Dominic Raiola will hold on to his job for another year. Warford could compete at right guard with Bill Nagy and Rodney Austin. Meanwhile, Jason Fox and Corey Hilliard could compete at right tackle.
The Lions have five draft picks remaining Saturday, but it's difficult to expect a rookie starter coming after the third round. It happens, but not enough to count on it. Unless the Lions decide to jump back into free agency, chances are they'll roll this season with the offensive linemen now on their roster.