Uncertainty followed Riley Reiff into the offseason. Following a season in which he found himself on the field as a run blocking tight end — barring his replacement of injured Jeff Backus in week 12 — Reiff came into the offseason hoping for clarity of his role.
“It would be nice to know if you’re playing an exact position, but you have to earn that,” Reiff told Detroitlions.com in March. “I can play guard or tackle. I just want to help the team anyway I can if it’s right guard, right tackle, left tackle, whatever it is.
“I’m truly excited for this upcoming training camp to get after it. Looking forward to the challenge and I need to step up to the plate.”
Following the first two days of the NFL draft, it seems his role has been defined. After the top three tackles where off the board by the Lions 5th pick, they turned to defensive end Ezekiel Ansah. In the second round — with a plethora of project offensive tackles available — the Lions passed and went with cornerback Darius Slay.
Following the Lions day two selections, Jim Schwartz said the Lions are comfortable with Reiff as the teams left tackle.
“That’s why we drafted him,” Schwartz said to reporters yesterday. “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 likely play next to Rob Sims and Dominic Raiola, who restructured his contract earlier this offseason. They drafted offensive guard Larry Warford to likely take over at right guard, and Corey Hilliard was brought back with the intentions of competing for a starting job. He will likely be joined in a training camp battle with Jason Fox for right tackle.
As the Lions head into Saturday’s conclusion to the NFL draft, Riley Reiff can now focus on protecting Matthew Stafford’s blindside.