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NFL rookies to watch out for

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Tavon Austin is short in stature but very effective. Bill Boyce / AP Photo
Tavon Austin is short in stature but very effective. Bill Boyce / AP Photo

Ahead of the start of the 2013 NFL season, which begins on Thursday, Mike Tierney looks at five rookies most likely to make an impact this season:

Tavon Austin, Seattle While the expensive signing Percy Harvin rehabs from injury, Austin puts on the mantle for the Seahawks as the most explosive short-in-stature receiver-punt returner in the league. (Little guys are hard to find.)

Montee Ball, Denver Rookie running backs often can step directly into the line-up, and the Broncos hope Ball ends their tailback-by-committee approach and gives them 20 carries per game to supplement Peyton Manningís mighty passing attack.

LeíVeon Bell, Pittsburgh A foot sprain suffered two weeks ago will delay by a few games the powerful tailbackís debut for the Steelers, who desperately need a rushing element in their attack, with their Ben Roethlisberger-led offence in decline.

Eddie Lacy, Green Bay As in Denver and Pittsburgh, the Packersí running game lags alarmingly behind their aerial attack, via Aaron Rodgers, and Lacy could help it catch up, even though the Alabama product has not won the starterís job.

EJ Manuel, Buffalo The lone quarterback taken in the first round of the college draft, Manuel is the focus of the Billsí rebuilding efforts. A knee injury has slowed his preparations, and if he cannot go, the undrafted rookie Jeff Tuel will.