The atomization and initial spray formation processes in direct injection engines are not well understood due to the experimental and computational challenges associated with resolving these processes. Although different physical mechanisms, such as aerodynamic-induced instabilities and nozzle-generated turbulence and cavitation, have been proposed in the literature to describe these processes, direct validation of the theoretical basis of these models under engine-relevant conditions has not been possible to date. Recent developments in droplet sizing measurement techniques offer a new opportunity to evaluate droplet size distributions formed in the central and peripheral regions of the spray. There is therefore a need to understand how these measurements might be utilized to validate unobservable physics in the near nozzle-region.To address this need, we conduct a computational study using 3D CFD simulations in CONVERGE to explore the relationship between the selected primary atomization model and droplet sizes formed in the central and peripheral regions of the spray. Two existing primary atomization models from the literature are studied to characterize the influence of competing aerodynamics and turbulence mechanisms on the spray formation process. We develop and implement a new hybrid primary atomization model to evaluate the influence of the assumed turbulent scaling on the predicted spray structure. Local sensitivity analysis is performed over a wide range of ambient densities, injection pressures and nozzle diameters to compare the response of predicted droplet sizes in different regions of the spray to changes in injection and ambient conditions. Comparison of the predicted spray structure among the three spray models and against available measurements helps identify a set of experimental conditions and measurements that are needed to inform the development of improved atomization and spray breakup models.