What happened last night with the selection of Riley Reiff shouldn’t have shocked any Lions fans. It fits perfectly with the blueprint the Lions have followed to get them from 0-16 to the playoffs. Here are a few reasons why:
It’s About Talent
The biggest mountain to climb in building the Lions from an 0-16 hole was the disparity in talent they faced compared to the rest of the league. It was easy to hail the best player available approach early in the Mayhew regime because the team’s needs were so great and so varied – the Lions could draft for need and value with the same player! That thinking is being challenged by some fans now that the Lions have passed on an opportunity to improve their secondary in the first round of this draft. Whatever happened to “In Mayhew we trust?” Perhaps it is just a vocal minority of sports talk radio callers but the fact is that the Lions have added a player they didn’t expect to be available to them. Teams always need talent and the Lions got that last night.
Long Term Vision
Will the addition of Reiff help in 2012? Some, if he turns out to be an upgrade over Gosder Cherilus or Stephen Peterman in year one, but if you’re simply looking for an improvement in 2012 you’re missing the point. The Lions certainly want to be as good as they can be in 2012 but not at the expense of creating an organization built for success over a much greater period of time than one year. Would trading up for a cornerback have made the Lions better in 2012? Probably but that isn’t the point of what the Lions are trying to do.
Proactive vs. Reactive
Left tackle is a premium position in the NFL and Reiff has the potential to fill the void that will be created by the retirement of Jeff Backus. Drafting Reiff this year allows the Lions to get a replacement with the kind of opportunity that doesn’t come around very often. Riley Reiff was widely projected to go somewhere between picks 10-13 yet he fell into the Lions’ lap at 23. It’s not often that the second best left tackle prospect in the draft is still available at that point. The value and the coming need means passing would have been a mistake. The Lions still have a need at cornerback but their proactive action in drafting Riley Reiff means they won’t have to chase a string of needs from year to year.