INDIANAPOLIS — Riley Reiff is getting the Bryan Bulaga treatment.
Reiff, Iowa’s latest first-round left tackle prospect, was a highly touted NFL prospect when the regular season ended. NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock ranked Reiff as the best tackle entering the draft. Most projections had him as a top-five or — at worst — top-10 selection. Now, anonymous whispers are picking at Reiff entering Thursday’s first round the way they did Bulaga two years ago.
“According to sources, teams don’t view Reiff as highly (as USC tackle Matt Kalil),” writes Russ Lande of the Sporting News. “Teams question whether he has the athleticism to be effective pass blocking at left tackle. These concerns will likely place Reiff toward the bottom of the first round or possibly the top of the second round.”
Of course Lande, the Big Ten Network’s NFL Draft contributor, placed Reiff in the third round in his initial BTN draft report three months ago. Lande later zoomed Reiff into the first round and now has him dropping.
Reiff’s course is similar to that of Bulaga, an Iowa left tackle who was considered a top-10 prospect in February 2010 by ESPN analyst Todd McShay. Bulaga fell to No. 23 in the draft because his “short arms.” Bulaga now is a two-year starter at right tackle for the Green Bay Packers.
Reiff has a similar problem. Dan Shonka, general manager and national scout for Ourlads Scouting Services, said Reiff’s arms, which measured at 33 1/4 inches at the NFL Scouting Combine, are a concern for teams. Arm length is vital for left tackles protecting the quarterback from top long-armed defensive ends who can drive into or move around a tackle with little resistance. Reiff has the shortest arm length of Shonka’s top-rated tackles.
“(Reiff) doesn’t have the longest arms of left tackles in this draft or any draft for that matter, so that’s a concern at the left tackle spot,” Shonka said. “I talked to different offensive line coaches and they said they he was going to be a right tackle only, of course and the short arms.
“Reiff is a good run blocker, and I think teams really like that. He’s a good pass protector but if you had to say, I think he’s a better run blocker right now. But he’s a good enough pass blocker to be a first-round guy.”
Robert Gallery (first round) and Marshal Yanda (third round) were high draft picks after solid, if not spectacular, careers as Iowa tackles. Both moved from tackle to guard partially because of their arm length. Gallery, who was the second overall draft pick in 2004, measured 32 1/4 inches, while Yanda’s are 33 1/2. But both have become top-tier guards, and Yanda made the Pro Bowl this year.
Reiff, who left Iowa after his junior season, compares favorably with those players, ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper said.
“We saw it with Marshal Yanda when he came out of Iowa,” Kiper said. “He was a guard because he doesn’t have that ability at tackle, that arm length that you look for, as well. But at 6-5 1/2, 310, 315 pounds, (Reiff has) a rugged approach, really serious about his business, functionally strong, has the wrestling background you like, works on his game, practices hard. I think he’s still in the developmental stage to a certain extent.”
Both Kiper and Shonka project Reiff going in the first round’s top half.
“The thing is he’s a four-for-one guy,” Shonka said. “Say he couldn’t play left tackle for whatever reason. Say he can’t do it. I’d put him at right. Then I play him there. But he doesn’t work there, you’ve got two guard positions. You can’t go wrong up in that top 15.”
Reiff (6-5 1/2, 313 pounds) started 34 consecutive games at Iowa, including the last 26 at left tackle. He was tabbed first-team all-Big Ten last year and a first-team All-American by Pro Football Weekly. Reiff previously started at guard and right tackle as a red-shirt freshman.
Reiff likely will be Iowa’s sixth first-round pick and 12th offensive lineman selected under Coach Kirk Ferentz. Ferentz, like Shonka and Kiper, likens Reiff to Yanda and Bulaga.
“The first thing that comes to my mind is just (Reiff’s) aggressiveness,” Ferentz told reporters Tuesday. “He’s durable. It’s hard to get Riley off the field. The other thing is he’s just a very aggressive player. And I feel a little bit like I did about Bryan Bulaga with Riley. Clearly, his best football is ahead of him.
“I could say the same thing about Marshal Yanda. Marshal was here for two years. Riley could have come back for another year. I fully understand why he chose to go out. Looks like a real smart decision at this point. The real plus is whoever gets him is going to see better football from him with each month in the future.”
As for Reiff, he doesn’t care about when he’s selected or to what position. He calls himself just a “tough, hardworking, coachable football player that loves playing the game.”
“The cards will fold where they fold,” he said. “First, 20th. That’s not for me to decide.”
Here's a chart of all offensive tackles selected in the first round from 2007 through 2011, including their school, NFL club, arm lengths and current positions:
9. Tyron Smith, USC Dallas 36 3/8 LT
17. Nate Solder, Colorado New England 35 1/2 TBD
22. Anthony Castonzo, Boston College Indianapolis 34 1/2 LT
25. James Carpenter, Alabama Seattle 34 RT
29. Gabe Carimi, Wisconsin Chicago 35 RT
32. Derek Sherrod, Mississippi State Green Bay 35 3/8 TBD
4. Trent Williams, Oklahoma Washington 34 1/4 LT
6. Russell Okung, Oklahoma State Seattle 36 LT
11. Anthony Davis, Rutgers San Francisco 34 RT
23. Bryan Bulaga, Iowa Green Bay 33 1/4 RT
2. Jason Smith, Baylor St. Louis 33 3/4 RT
6. Andre Smith, Alabama Cincinnati 35 3/8 RT
8. Eugene Monroe, Virginia Jacksonville 33 7/8 LT
23. Michael Oher, Ole Miss Baltimore 33 1/2 RT
1. Jake Long, Michigan Miami 32 7/8 LT
12. Ryan Clady, Boise State Denver 36 LT
14. Chris Williams, Vanderbilt Chicago 32 7/8 LG
15. Branden Albert, Virginia Kansas City 33 5/8 LT
17. Gosder Cherilus, Boston College Detroit 35 5/8 RT
19. Jeff Otah, Pittsburgh Carolina 34 5/8 RT
21. Sam Baker, USC Atlanta 33 1/8 LT
26. Duane Brown, Virginia Tech Houston 32 3/8 LT
3. Joe Thomas, Wisconsin Cleveland 32 1/2 LT
5. Levi Brown, Penn State Arizona 33 1/8 LT28. Joe Staley, Central Michigan San Francisco 33 1/2 LT