Nati Harnik

If you're thirsty for NFL draft coverage, you've clicked on the right article. 

With half of the NFL already eliminated from playoff contention and the college football regular season already over, it's time to crank the throttle as far as NFL draft coverage goes. And this time of year, there's plenty to talk about.

Juniors and redshirt sophomores are declaring for the draft, and others are announcing they'll return to school. NFL coaches and players are being put on the hot seat (that means you, Marc Trestman and Jay Cutler) while teams end the season with an eye toward evaluating the young talent on the roster. 

What's new in the world of the NFL draft? A lot, so this will be a long one.

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The NFL draft has become a 365-day news cycle, but there is definitely a "draft season." And we're getting close to it. With six NFL teams already eliminated from playoff contention and just four weeks of NFL play left, many teams are shifting their focus to the upcoming offseason. That means more information from scouts, more underclassmen making NFL draft decisions and a whole lot of film study to set my big board for player rankings.

You'll get that in this week's Scouting Notebook, plus a look at the updated draft order and each team's biggest need as we head into the offseason. 


— In all my talks with NFL scouts this week, no player was mentioned more than Wake Forest cornerback Kevin Johnson. He's soaring up boards as teams file their initial grades this week. More on him below.

— What are NFL scouts doing this week? The National Football Scouting meetings are taking place in Indianapolis this week, and most clubs are bringing in all their scouts from the road next week to set an initial big board based on area scout grades. Expect a big information dump in the next 10 days as these scouting meetings get underway.

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Three NFL teams—the Oakland Raiders, Jacksonville Jaguars and New York Jets—are officially eliminated from the postseason. For them and for others clinging loosely to playoff dreams, it's time to start thinking about the upcoming offseason and the 2015 season.

We can put these teams on the clock and begin looking at their needs and assets, but first there's the wait to see which college underclassmen (redshirt sophomores and juniors) will enter the 2015 draft. That news will start trickling in this week, and there are plenty of updates on that below for you to digest along with your Thanksgiving turkey.

As an added bonus, this week's Scouting Notebook also features a full one-round mock draft. 


— Let's get right down to it. Sources close to players and/or schools have confirmed to me that these juniors are planning to leave school for the NFL draft: Leonard Williams (DT—USC), Randy Gregory (DE—Nebraska), Shane Ray (DE—Missouri), Benardrick McKinney (ILB—Miss. State), Andrus Peat (OT—Stanford) and Alex Carter (CB—Stanford).

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The college football regular season is nearing its end, and with that the NFL draft season really starts to heat up. 

With one final update before the end of the season, here is a look at which draft-eligible (redshirt sophomores, juniors and seniors) players project best to the NFL at this time. Draft rankings are fluid, and things like good or bad play, injuries and more time to view prospects can have a drastic effect on the board. But through three months of play, these players stand out as the best.

Here's a look at my top 64 players overall and my top 10 players at each position. If your favorite player isn't included here, it may be because they are an underclassman I don't expect to declare for the 2015 draft. If they're a senior prospect, it could be because an underclassman is taking their spot. 

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Top players are being injured, suspended, overrated and underrated. Basically, this means draft season is heating up.

The goal of the weekly Scouting Notebook is to inform, update and discuss all that's happening in the world of the NFL draft. We'll talk about A.J. Johnson being suspended while he's investigated in a sexual assault case. We'll talk about Marcus Peters and his rebound after being kicked out of Washington. We'll talk about players who are overrated and those who too many people are sleeping on as underrated prospects.

With another week of the regular season gone and the playoffs getting closer, here's one more look at the Scouting Notebook.


— Washington cornerback Marcus Peters was my top-ranked player at the position before being dismissed from the team, reportedly for conflicts with coaches. With more information coming in regarding his dismissal, Peters is still my No. 1 cornerback. According to sources close to the Washington program, the exact cause of his conflicts was such that his draft stock will be unaffected once the full story is told.

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November is here. The weather has turned cold, the days are getting shorter, and around the NFL, area scouts are putting grades on college seniors, agents are talking to underclassmen about declaring for the 2015 NFL draft, and coaches are holding on trying to win games. 

As draft season really begins this month, it's time to look at the NFL teams already out of playoff contention that are looking ahead to the upcoming draft. It's also time to look at the players who are earning a move up and down my Big Board as the season gets close to the end of the regular season. 

With the latest news, rumors and a look at updated player rankings, here's the Week 11 Scouting Notebook.


— Louisville saw Calvin Pryor, Marcus Smith and Teddy Bridgewater drafted in the first round of the 2014 draft and could see a high number drafted in Round 1 of 2015. Sources close to the team tell me they're prepared to lose free safety Gerod Holliman and defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins as underclassmen. 

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There is never a dull moment in the land of NFL draft coverage. In what is normally a quiet week in November, two top prospects (Marcus Peters, Stefon Diggs) were disciplined by their schools, a top-tier tackle prospect (Cedric Ogbuehi) is moving back to the right side due to injury and the play of senior quarterbacks continues to disappoint on film. 

Who moves up and down this week? We'll dive into that, check in on an updated Mock Draft and hit on the latest news, rumors and insights from around the NFL.


— I reported in this space last week that Washington cornerback Marcus Peters wasn't liked by head coach Chris Petersen, per an area scout assigned to the school. Peters was dismissed from the team on Thursday morning, per The Seattle Times. This could affect his draft stock once assistant coaches and head coach Petersen start talking to NFL scouts about Peters, but general managers tend to deal more in traits and upside versus on-the-ground riffs with coaches. Peters was my top-ranked cornerback this season and a potential top-10 pick. His stock is holding until more information can be gained.

— Staying at the University of Washington, two-way star Shaq Thompson had a season-high 174 yards as a running back against Colorado last week and will start in the backfield again this week against UCLA. Thompson's home in the NFL is still at outside linebacker, though. One scout I talked to this week said Thompson is the only 4-3 outside linebacker they rank in the first round currently.

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The 2014 college football regular season is down to the final month of play, which means time to evaluate NFL draft prospects is also heating up.

Looking at the 2015 NFL draft class in early November—including expected juniors and redshirt sophomore underclassman declarations—you get the sense that this isn't a great or deep group. Unlike the 2011 and 2014 drafts, both of which had exceptional top-tier talent and great depth, the 2015 class has a handful of very good prospects near the top of the rankings but a big drop-off to the second tier.

The same can be said for many positions, but the 2015 class does look very strong at running back and edge-rushers on defense. And depending on which underclassmen head to the NFL this spring, the group at quarterback could be deep on passers or very thin.

As NFL fans begin to look ahead to the offseason, here is my list of the top draft-eligible college players based on how well they will project to the next level. This is not a list of the best players in college football, but a list of how good the best players in college look to the NFL. Throw out your stat books, because this is more about talent, traits and upside.

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The 2014 NFL season is at the halfway mark. That means it's NFL draft season, too. 

Of the 32 NFL teams, 13 already have losing records. Teams like the Raiders (zero wins), Jets (one win), Jaguars (one win), Buccaneers (one win), Falcons (two wins) and Rams (two wins) are already focusing on next year. We are, too. 

It's officially anonymous scout season, and I wanted to spend the beginning of this article addressing that. I will not use rumors or notes from coaches, executives, players or scouts that aren't vetted. If I share things like last year's comparison of Teddy Bridgewater to fictional quarterback Willie Beaman, it's to show the readers how NFL teams think. Much like retweets aren't always an endorsement, sharing information from anonymous sources isn't always an endorsement of their opinion. It's only to peel back the curtain on how NFL teams operate. So, what are NFL teams thinking?


— The 2015 draft class doesn't look particularly strong overall, but there are a few players NFL scouts feel are safe picks. One NFC college scouting director told me this week that USC's Leonard Williams is viewed by his team right now as the safest pick in the class. Williams projects as a 5-technique in a 3-4 defense or a 3-technique one-gap player in a 4-3 scheme. He's currently my No. 3 overall player in the draft.

USA Today

Week 8 of the NFL season has come and gone. Some teams are playing well and in control of their playoff destiny—other teams are limping to the finish and already looking ahead to 2015. The halfway point between now and then is the 2015 NFL draft, and with it comes hopes and dreams for every NFL franchise.

Whether you're a struggling team trying to rebuild or a successful top-tier team looking to add a piece or two to secure a Super Bowl, the NFL draft is incredibly important. And with an upcoming class that looks to be stocked well at quarterback, running back, pass-rusher and cornerback, every team can head into the offseason feeling good about its chances.

Using an updated draft order based on current standings, here's a look at the first two rounds of the 2015 NFL draft.