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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.

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Mark Wallheiser/Associated Press

Every game matters in college football, but as the season turns to premier matchups between top-tier teams, every evaluator gets excited about the star power on both sides of the field.

This past weekend delivered as Notre Dame and Florida State went down to the wire—allowing Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston to show off his clutch ability with the game on the line. And while one player excels, others struggled.

How did the past week in college and NFL football affect player rankings and the upcoming draft class? 

 

— Let's get the weekly Jameis Winston talk out of the way. After a thrilling fourth quarter against Notre Dame, this text came in from one NFL college scouting director: "Too bad about the off-field, because Winston is the best player in the country." More on Winston, and some closure on him, in Five Up, Five Down. 

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Ryan Kang/Associated Press

With the NFL season nearing the halfway mark, it is becoming obvious (painfully so in some locker rooms) where each team needs to improve. That's what this list will tackle.

But beyond simply looking at which teams need what positions, let's go one step farther and look at draft-eligible college players who can fill those needs at a realistic draft position for each team based on Week 7 standings. For example: The Seattle Seahawks may need a defensive lineman, but they won't be listed next to USC's Leonard Williams, as he's projected as a top-five pick in the draft. Make sense?

Of course, things will change as players develop, free agents are signed and coaches are fired and hired, but this is a great list to get started on those offseason projections.

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Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

It may not be draft season yet for all NFL and college football fans—unless you live in Oakland, Jacksonville, Tampa Bay, Tennessee or root for the New York Jets. Then it's probably safe to start spending your Saturdays checking out the top talent available in the 2015 draft.

Or you can just read this article every Friday morning.

This week's Scouting Notebook will look at my updated top 10 players and check in on five players moving up in the rankings and five players moving down my board. We'll also discuss rumors, news and notes from around the draft landscape. 

 

— In talking with area scouts this week, guys assigned to the West are torn on Arizona State wide receiver Jaelen Strong. One scout has him ranked as a top-15 player, while another has Strong among his most overrated players by the media and more of a second-rounder.

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Getty Images

The job of evaluating football players is one filled with misses and some hits. But the good people at home rarely remember when you get one right—they'll always remember when you miss. 

When you work in media and are asked to evaluate players, I've found it is best to be up-front and honest about missing on players. No one wants to hear excuses from analysts on why Jimmy Clausen didn't become a franchise quarterback—the fan at home wants to laugh at your misfortune and hear honest analysis on why Clausen didn't pan out. 

I've been evaluating players since the 2002 draft, and I like to think I've improved with age. This article will peel back the curtain, though, showing you my top 10 players ever graded at each position. You'll also get notes on why certain players failed or why I was higher on some players than other analysts and even NFL teams were.

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John Bazemore/Associated Press

The best player in the country will not suit up Saturday and may never do so again in college football.

Running back Todd Gurley is out after the University of Georgia handed down an indefinite suspension. The star tailback and Heisman Trophy candidate is being investigated for an alleged violation of NCAA rules, the school announced Thursday evening.

ESPN's Joe Schad reports "the NCAA investigation centers around whether Gurley was given money for autographs, memorabilia or the use of his likeness. Georgia officials did not reveal the alleged violation."

That's legal for me or you to do but not for a college "student-athlete."

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Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Following a crazy week of college football, this week's Scouting Notebook is jam-packed with inside information on which players NFL teams are loving, cooling on and discovering as scouts continue their road work.

We'll also take a look at an updated draft order and team needs for the first round of the 2015 NFL draft, discuss another exciting 2016 prospect and see which college stars are already drawing comparisons to Jadeveon Clowney and J.J. Watt.

 

— Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott has turned heads with back-to-back wins over LSU and Texas A&M. With a game against No. 2 Auburn on the slate this weekend, it's worth noting that people close to Prescott are already putting out feelers about his NFL potential for the 2015 class. Prescott, whose mother passed away in November of 2013 to cancer, is said to be looking for a way to provide for his family sooner rather than later. He's currently ranked as a second-round talent on my big board.

— Another player who has been poking around for news on his draft stock is LSU defensive back Jalen Mills. The excellent cornerback/safety prospect is another in a long line of talented defensive backs to come out of LSU, and he carries a late first-round grade on my board currently. 

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Elaine Thompson/Associated Press

It's always NFL draft season around these parts, and with six weeks of college football already in the books, a clear picture of the best talent available for the 2015 draft is starting to take shape.

An early look at this class shows strength at offensive tackle, running back and edge pass-rushers on defense. The top-end talent at quarterback looks impressive midway through the year, but with conference schedules picking up, players like Marcus Mariota, Brett Hundley and Jameis Winston will be under more pressure and more of a spotlight to perform well for scouts.

Here's a look at the current top 100 players on my board, which includes underclassmen (redshirt sophomores and juniors) at this stage. You'll also get a look at the top 10 players at each position, including rankings for 3-4 defensive positions.

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Grant Halverson/Getty Images

October is here, and more than the leaves are falling this month. 

As NFL teams win (and lose), the draft order becomes more set and we see which areas each team will be looking to address in the upcoming NFL draft. Some are obvious, like the New England Patriots needing help at wide receiver, but others take weeks to flesh out. But make no mistake, every NFL scout is at a college right now watching film, meeting coaches, talking to trainers and evaluating prospect game film.

With the NFL draft set for April 30, teams now have an end date to work toward. And we do too.

 

— One area scout told me this week, "Everyone loves (Brett) Hundley, but hates EJ Manuel. They're the same player!"

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USA Today

You may have clicked on this article thinking it's way too early for a 2015 mock draft, and it might be. But if you're a current fan of the winless Oakland Raiders or Jacksonville Jaguars, you're probably already looking ahead to the upcoming draft. This is for you.

The NFL season is four weeks gone, and that means we can start looking at the current draft order (based on win/loss record) and marrying the order with team needs and draftable player talent. There are underclassmen listed here who may decide to return to school, but in late September, these are the players most likely to enter the 2015 draft instead of heading back to college for another season (or two).

Predicting what will happen in late April 2015 is impossible, but this is a look at what positions teams are looking to fill, what talent is expected to be on the board and how the class could unfold seven months from now.