There is so much time between now and Week 1 of the 2017 NFL season. But it's still worth looking at the recent draft class for each division, and each team, and wondering which players will make the most impact.
For the exercise below, the goal was to look at each division and see which rookie is most likely to decide the division. That doesn't happen often. Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott are the exception, not the rule. And we're not looking for rookies to just win the division by themselves.
We're looking for rookies who will surprise some people with their performance and help to push their team over the top, or to flip things for their franchise.
This isn't the "biggest impact rookie" -- it's the rookie that will decide the division. Leave your choices in the comments below or harass me about the picks you hate on Twitter @WillBrinson.
Overview: Largely a division where things are pretty straightforward and easy. If these early-round defensive picks have an impact, there could be a huge swing for two of these teams.
Taco Charlton, DE, Cowboys: The Cowboys lost a ton of pieces to their secondary in free agency and adding Chidobe Awuzie in the second round was a massive steal. But this defense won't be truly great unless it can generate some pass rush. Dallas' efforts to add a pass rusher in the second round the past few years have been met with, ahem, less than fantastic results. Randy Gregory is a lost cause and DeMarcus Lawrence feels like an injury waiting to happen. Going after Charlton in the first round gives them a bona fide blue-chip pass rusher, and it offers Rod Marinelli a chance to really mold a young pass rusher with a clean track record. The defensive coordinator has a long history of getting the most out of his players. If he can max out Charlton, the Cowboys' entire defense will improve and they will have a good shot at replicating their success in 2016.
Donnell Pumphrey, RB, Eagles: Really wanted to give the nod to Pumphrey here, because I'm firmly of the opinion he makes a huge impact this season on multiple levels. But there's no guarantee he starts or gets enough carries to make a big enough impact on this division race in 2017. I think the Eagles have the offense to flip the tables, and Pumphrey might put them over the top.
Evan Engram, TE, Giants: An offensive lineman for the Giants might have won this award. Engram is still a very nice option here, though, because the Giants already have a good defense, already have a good quarterback and need a seam buster. Engram is that guy.
Jonathan Allen, DE, Redskins: His fall to No. 17 could look absurd in a few months if he comes out and starts wreaking havoc like he did at Alabama. If you want a guy to anchor a defense and flip the tables, this is the guy.
Overview: Is this the best division in football? It really might be. And every team in this division got better in the draft, making it a bit of a wild card.
Taylor Moton, OL, Panthers: And we're going with a wild card here too! You could choose Christian McCaffrey. You could choose Daeshon Hall. But Moton looks like the guy who is going to step in right away and play right tackle. If he is, being able to help shore up protection for Cam Newton is critical. If Newton is protected and the Panthers are running well, then Carolina is going to win this division and look like a Super Bowl contender again. Moton is fully capable of improving the Panthers' run game out of the gate. And if Moton doesn't play, it means that Michael Oher is ready to go, and that means the Panthers have substantially more depth on the offensive line than they thought they would.
O.J. Howard, TE, Buccaneers: Really think that the diversity of weapons for Jameis Winston is going to result in a massive season for the former No. 1 overall pick. And Howard should impact the Bucs' offense not just with his pass catching but also with his run blocking.
Marshon Lattimore, CB, Saints: How can it be anyone else? The Saints will be fine on offense. They need to get better defensively, and their decision to accidentally draft Lattimore (they reportedly wanted Patrick Mahomes instead!) could pay big dividends in flipping the defense.
Takkarist McKinley, LB, Falcons: Another first-round pick, but can you imagine anyone else having as big an impact as McKinley? The rest of the draft is nice, but he's capable of coming in right away and improving this defense.
Overview: At the end of the day we're talking about a rookie who can win the division. Which limits the list of rookies to two rosters: the Seahawks and the Cardinals. Sorry, 49ers and Rams. This isn't a division with a ton of impact rookies who are going to swing things.
Haason Reddick, LB, Cardinals: The Cardinals have the pieces to contend in this division. They were there before the draft, and if Arizona had taken a quarterback for the future no one would have complained. But if they're trying to win now, then landing a guy like Reddick makes an even bigger difference, because he might be as big an impact a guy as there is in this draft. Even in a situation like Arizona where there are so many different linebackers in play, things are so fluid on this defense that the Cardinals can figure out a way to utilize him in different plays in different formations.
Reuben Foster, LB, 49ers: The ultimate "what if" scenario for the Niners is Solomon Thomas combining with DeForest Buckner and Arik Armstead to create a terrifying defensive line and Foster becoming the guy they expected, one of the three best overall players in the draft. If Foster is the football player he can be for the 49ers -- as in, if he can avoid all the off-field issues and the injury problems -- he could be a superstar from the get-go. Maybe Kyle Shanahan makes some magic and Foster flips the field for this defense. Weirder things have happened.
Josh Reynolds, WR, Rams: If the Rams are going to be any good it has to be because of Jared Goff. The defense is talented, but this team isn't making any headlines without an offensive improvement. With Tavon Austin and Robert Woods as the primary veteran targets in Los Angeles, Goff needs a big-time weapon in the passing game; could it be Reynolds?
Ethan Pocic, C, Seahawks: I'm a firm believer that the Seahawks' season will only be impacted by the improvement of the offensive line.
Overview: A pretty difficult division to pick, because all four of the teams had pretty good drafts. Chicago is by far the worst team in the division and appeared to spend the most on the long haul in the draft. It was harder to find an instant impact rookie on their roster than it was to pick between the top rookies for the Lions, Packers and Vikings.
Jarrad Davis, LB, Lions: The reality of the Lions' situation is they were a nine-win team that got extremely lucky in 2016. They were bad on defense, ranking 32nd overall in DVOA, and part of that was being bad against the run (23rd in DVOA, 14th in total yards per game, 20th in yards per rush). The linebacker corps is a major concern, and adding Davis should immediately improve the rushing defense. He could grow into a legitimately dangerous middle linebacker under Teryl Austin's tutorship. One of the biggest pluses for looking at Davis as an impact guy isn't just the guaranteed opportunity to start -- the Lions already said he'll top the depth chart at middle linebacker -- but also the fact that he started as a true freshman for Florida. He has experience being thrown into the fire and producing. If he does that for the Lions, maybe they can actually take the division this season.
Dalvin Cook, RB, Vikings: Minnesota didn't have a first-round pick in this draft after trading for Sam Bradford before last season. But they got a first-round talent in Cook, who could completely change the way their offense looks if he avoids injury and/or any off-field issues. In a vacuum he could have been the best running back in this class. With only Latavius Murray offering competition, Cook should make a major impact.
Jamaal Williams, RB, GB: The addition of the young defensive backs in this draft -- Kevin King of Washington and Josh Jones of NC State -- is a huge plus for a defense that struggled badly against the pass down the stretch and ultimately collapsed in the playoffs. But the Packers need some balance in the running game. Ty Montgomery was fantastic last season, but if Williams can make an impact he'll give Green Bay a legitimate horse to run the ball. And if the Packers have a truly balanced offense, this division race won't be much of a race at all.
Adam Shaheen, TE, Bears: With Alshon Jeffery leaving for Philadelphia in the offseason, the only targets left for Mike Glennon (Mitchell Trubisky?) are Cameron Meredith, Kevin White, Eddie Royal and Zach Miller. It's unusual for rookie tight ends to make immediate impacts, but the Bears could use Shaheen going from a small school to the next level very quickly if they want to challenge in the north.
Overview: Funny story about this one ... no one can beat the Patriots. So here's the biggest impact rookie.
Jamal Adams, S, Jets: A superstar talent who somehow fell further than he should have. Adams will be making plays left and right for this Jets team as one of the few good players on the back end of the defense.
Isaac Asiata, OL, Dolphins: The Dolphins are going to run the ball a lot, and if Asiata can help make an impact on improving Jay Ajayi's rushing ability, there is a small chance the Dolphins could steal this division.
Derek Rivers, DE, Patriots: He'll have 10 sacks in a season some time in the next three years.
Overview: Another division where the choice is easy. We know who's starting in Houston. If he's good, they can go a long way. If he's not ...
Deshaun Watson, QB, Texans: Houston paid a big price again to acquire a quarterback. This time the salary will be cheaper, but the overall price tag might be steeper if the Texans aren't good. If Houston goes under .500, it could give away two top-40 picks to the Browns next year. If Watson is good -- and he could be, because he was great in college -- the Texans can make a deep playoff run. No question who the guy is here.
Malik Hooker, S, Colts: Chuck Pagano finally has a GM giving him the players he needs for his system. Hooker could be a poor man's Ed Reed in the Colts' defense, and this is a unit that could flip overnight because of how the new regime has handled things. If the Colts' defense is good? Look out.
Adoree' Jackson, CB, Titans: Losing Jason McCourty means the Titans need to get better in the secondary. If Jackson is pro ready then the Titans will be better off in the secondary than we think. He can also change the game when it comes to special teams.
Overview: It's not hard to see this division going any which way, with a load of talent coming in via the draft to all these teams. It probably will be the most difficult division in football for the second year in a row.
Dan Feeney, OL, Chargers: This is sort of a reach, but not really, because I firmly believe that Forrest Lamp will be good. But I'm not sure he's enough to totally flip the division for the Chargers. But if Feeney and Lamp are good enough to start, good enough to protect Philip Rivers the entire season and good enough to make a major impact on the AFC West, it's not hard to imagine the Chargers winning the division.
Jake Butt, TE, Broncos: According to reports, Butt could be ready to go by August or September after tearing his ACL in the Orange Bowl against Florida State. If that's the case, he could provide early-round impact for Paxton Lynch or Trevor Siemian.
Kareem Hunt, RB, Chiefs: Spencer Ware is a viable feature back for this team and showed it last season. But if he somehow slips, Hunt could step in and be the guy for Andy Reid's offense. That would be a massive help.
Gareon Conley, CB, Raiders: Without getting into him playing versus him not playing would make a huge difference in terms of the Raiders' defense.
Overview: Hard to get a handle on this division, because the Steelers look like the favorite, the Ravens are retooling on the fly, the Bengals have a sneaky appeal and the Browns probably aren't very good.
Joe Mixon, RB, Bengals: It doesn't feel good to put him here given his past, but the reality is that he is one of the most talented players in the draft. He should end up winning the starting running back job and he could very quickly become one of the most impressive rookies in the league if he puts his full talent on display. Mixon is a big back who can catch passes and do about anything you would want as an offensive coordinator.
James Conner, RB, Steelers: Just about every year, Le'Veon Bell has had to deal with some kind of issue, whether it be injury or suspension. Not saying that happens this year, but DeAngelo Williams has been a huge plus for Pittsburgh in the past. Conner could be that fill in this time around.
Tim Williams, LB, Ravens: Pure, pure pass rush. He's not there to do anything else. He has red flags, but if he can get even close to double-digit sacks for the Ravens, it means they're getting crazy value late from their defense.
David Njoku, TE, Browns: Hard not to pick a first-round guy from this draft class. Njoku is the best bet to give DeShone Kizer a dangerous weapon, and if he's ready to go from Day 1 the Browns are going to win five-plus games this season.