Number Five – 2012
Selection/Position: Riley Reiff / Offensive Tackle
Draft position/School: 23rd overall / Iowa
Tenure with Lions: 2012 – 2016
Lions statistics: 77 games played, 69 starts
Riley “Brief” as he was known to some due to his often terse exchanges with the media, was drafted to be the heir apparent to veteran left tackle Jeff Backus. Reiff appeared in all 16 games as a rookie, mainly in an apprentice role to the venerable incumbent. Backus retired after the 2012 season and Reiff would step in as his replacement.
He was solid if unspectacular as quarterback Matthew Stafford’s blind-side protector for the next three seasons. He was also durable, missing just three games over that span. In his final season in Detroit, Reiff was moved to right tackle to make way for rookie left tackle Taylor Decker, part of Bob Quinn’s tireless efforts to completely reshape the Lions’ offensive line.
After his one season on the other side of the line, Reiff was not retained and signed a hefty five-year, $58.75 million contract with the Minnesota Vikings to be their left tackle. In his two seasons with the Lions’ division rival, his play has been on par with his time in Detroit. According to Pro Football Focus’ (PFF) advanced player grading system, Reiff finished as the 23rd best overall offensive tackle in the league in 2018, with a grade of 73.6.
True to his nickname, the Riley Reiff era in Michigan was rather “brief”. The Lions are certainly hoping that their decision to effectively replace him with Decker will pay off eventually.