At No. 4 we have the countdown's first rookie matchup and it's a battle of a couple of first rounders: Nick Perry and Riley Reiff.
Perry was drafted No. 28 overall out of USC to help the Green Bay Packers pressure the quarterback better than they did a year ago, when their overall defense was atrocious. Reiff, drafted No. 23 overall out of Iowa, makes a needed improvement to the Detroit Lions' offensive line and will be trying to prevent Perry from wreaking havoc on Matthew Stafford.
Both players have signed with their respective teams, Perry doing so much earlier than Reiff, who just signed on July 23. And both will likely have the chance to play and impact the game right away, which means we could see the beginnings of a new rivalry between two talented young players.
Perry is expected to start, and, although he is making a big transition from defensive end to linebacker, he should be able to maintain starting status through training camp. He will be playing left outside linebacker despite that being Clay Matthews' position in the past, because the Packers want him rushing the passer and not dropping back into coverage too often.
As for Reiff, he might not play the same position he plays as a rookie for his entire career. He's a potential left tackle of the future, but Jeff Backus, the Lions' left tackle of eleven years, has started 176 straight games and is poised to be the starter again, probably for the last time.
The Lions are likely going to get Reiff some playing time at a position where the reigning starter has much less job security, meaning right tackle. Pride of Detroit managing editor Sean Yuille describes the Lions' starting right tackle Gosder Cherilus as "very inconsistent at times in the past." This leaves the door open for the No. 23 overall pick and sets the stage for an intriguing battle between him and Perry.
With a 4.64 recorded 40 time, Perry has Clay Matthews-type speed and the Packers hope he can rack up the sack numbers like Matthews as well. He'll need to perform in order for the Packers' abysmal defense from 2011 to turn back into the playmaking defense that won the Super Bowl the previous year.
However, in order to reach the bar set by Matthews, Perry will have to adjust to standing up and not having his hand in the dirt as he rushes quarterbacks in the NFL. The good news for Packer fans is that following an OTA practice on May 22, Perry described standing up as "pretty comfortable."
"I can adapt," Perry said. "At the end of the day it's football."
Meanwhile, there are very few doubts surrounding Reiff's abilities. He was the second offensive lineman selected in this year's draft, behind only Perry's USC teammate, fourth overall selection Matt Kalil. Reiff used to wrestle in high school, indicating that he's athletic for his size. He stands at 6'6" and weighs 313 pounds. Perry is 6'3", 271 pounds by comparison.
Reiff starred at Iowa where he was a teammate of Bryan Bulaga's. Like Perry he entered the NFL draft after his junior year of school and like Perry he redshirted in 2008.
Both Reiff and Perry have the opportunity to one day be great players in the league and both will play critical roles for their respective teams right off the bat. It will be interesting to see which player can get the best of the matchup and prove that they were the more effective first round selection.
Greg Jennings vs. Charles Tillman | A.J. Hawk vs. Matthew Stafford | T.J. Lang vs. Ndomukong Suh | Sam Shields vs. Devin Hester | Marshall Newhouse vs. Julius Peppers | Charles Woodson vs. Brandon Marshall