The impact of rookies is always hard to gauge -- but I'm going to project anyway. Instead of going the old route and guessing who'll be the defensive or offensive rookies of the year, I'm going to plug those that could have the most impact within their divisions.
Marcell Dareus, DT, Buffalo: It's hard for defensive tackles to shake things up as rookies -- Ndamukong Suh was not the norm -- but Dareus will probably get more snaps and opportunities than first-year players on other teams in this division. He also should make things better for other players by occupying blockers. His head-to-heads with Miami Dolphins first-rounder Mike Pouncey should be good because they'll be banging for quite some time.
Jabaal Sheard, DE, Cleveland: Sheard, Cleveland's second pick, is a hard-working pass rusher who should benefit from the inside help he could get from first-round DT Phil Taylor. He is a perfect fit for the new 4-3 front and his relentlessness and closing speed should allow him to make Ben Roethlisberger, Joe Flacco and Andy Dalton feel his presence.
Delone Carter, RB, Indianapolis: This is a big-time sleeper pick, but Carter (5-9, 222) could give the Colts a nice injection of game-breaking ability. The fourth-rounder is built like Ray Rice and is similar in ability and skill set. So many teams play nickel defenses against the Colts that he could have room to run if he gets to the second level.
Justin Houston, LB, Kansas City: Houston is a big-time talent who dropped into the third round because of character concerns. Having played in a 3-4 front in college, he could transition quickly. Safety Eric Berry had a breakout rookie campaign for the Chiefs last season and a motivated Houston might be the rookie who makes a name for himself in 2011. The offensive lines within the division should be better, but so should the Chiefs' defense.
DeMarco Murray, RB, Dallas: Many of the players drafted high by teams in this division are interior players where it will take some time to judge their impact. Murray, a third-round pick, will likely displace Marion Barber on the roster and he'll get touches, mainly in the passing game, in third-down packages. The Giants have linebackers who might be able to run with him, but he should have matchup edges against the Eagles and 'Skins.
Nick Fairley, DT, Detroit: Fairley, the No. 13 overall pick, is going to be a rotational player, but also the least likely to get double teams. He was disruptive against top college competition and now he'll be in an NFL strength program. He'll be facing two suspect offensive lines in Minnesota and Chicago (twice each).
Julio Jones, WR, Atlanta: It's not always easy for rookie wide receivers, but the Falcons will bring him along quickly and scheme for him to get touches. Once he gets his hands on the ball, he could cause big problems. Playing wide or out of the slot is going to get him some matchup advantages. The Saints, Bucs and Panthers could get caught with safeties or outside linebackers on Jones.
Ryan Williams, RB, Arizona: First-rounder Patrick Peterson is going to get the hype, but stepping right in as a cornerback is tough. That's far less the case at running back and Williams is a potential highlight machine. It shouldn't take long for him to supplant Beanie Wells, who has been a disappointment, and get into a rotation with Tim Hightower. Teams will stack the line until the Cardinals re-kindle the passing game, but the diminutive Williams is very slippery.
Follow Steve Wyche on Twitter @wyche89.