Iowa tackle Riley Reiff, once considered a top-10 pick, was selected 23rd overall by the Detroit Lions on Thursday in the 2012 NFL draft.
It was the third consecutive season a Hawkeye was chosen in the first round and sixth Iowa first-rounder under Coach Kirk Ferentz.
“We’re very fortunate to sit at No. 23 and still end up with a player that we liked,” Detroit Coach Jim Schwartz said. “Riley is a left tackle. He fits the criteria we have for that position.
“He comes from a great tradition of offensive linemen at Iowa. He’s a good run blocker and a good pass blocker. Even though he’s still a young player and will still improve and take other steps, we’re not drafting a guy that’s a developmental player. He’s a very experienced player. He’s played at a high level in the Big Ten. We’re very fortunate to get him where we were.”
Reiff, a 6-foot-5, 313-pound native of Parkston, S.D., started 34 consecutive games at Iowa, including the last 26 at left tackle. He was named first-team all-Big Ten last year and a first-team All-American by Pro Football Weekly. He will wear No. 71, the Lions announced.
Reiff experienced a similar free fall throughout the first round as former teammate Bryan Bulaga. Two years ago Bulaga was considered a top-10 pick but also fell to No. 23 before he was selected by the Green Bay Packers.
Much of the discussion centered on whether or not Reiff could handle the all-important left tackle position. Schwartz told reporters Reiff’s experience at multiple offensive line positions was a plus.
“He’s not a mismatch as a run blocker or as a pass protector,” Schwartz said. “He’s multidimensional. and I think that adds to his value.”
Iowa’s previous first-round picks under Ferentz include defensive end Adrian Clayborn (2011), tight end Dallas Clark (2003), tackle Robert Gallery (2004) and linebacker Chad Greenway (2006). Reiff is the 19th first-round pick in Iowa history and 43rd draft pick under Ferentz.
The Lions needed to get younger at offensive tackle. Starting left tackle Jeff Backus is entering his 12th season with the Lions. Right tackle Gosder Cherilus was a first-round pick in 2008.
“We’ll put them all out there and let them play,” Schwartz said.
The Lions have two former Hawkeyes on their roster. In 2010, former Iowa cornerback Amari Spievey was selected in the third round. He now plays safety. Punter Ryan Donahue signed with Detroit as a free agent last year.
Reiff was the first Big Ten player selected in the draft. Three other Big Ten players were taken.
It was a wild first round with 14 spots swapped via trade. Minnesota moved down one spot with Cleveland from three to four and selected USC tackle Matt Kalil. The Vikings then moved back into the first round and picked Notre Dame safety Harrison Smith.
Kansas City picked Memphis defensive tackle Dontari Poe, Green Bay selected USC pass rusher Nick Perry and Chicago drafted Boise State outside linebacker Shea McClellin.To no one’s surprise Indianapolis drafted quarterback Andrew Luck with the first pick. Washington, which traded up to No. 2 with St. Louis last month, picked Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III of Baylor.