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Derick E. Hingle/USA Today

Welcome back. It's been a while.

The craziness of the Super Bowl, and the many attempts to fly home after the Super Bowl, meant no Scouting Notebook for one week. But the draft season rolls on, and so we're back with a ton of news, notes and thoughts heading into next week's NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.

With two weeks between writings, a lot went down both on and off the field. While Jonathan Martin and Richie Incognito dominated my world, there will be none of that posted here, as this is your place to get NFL draft information.

What are NFL teams and prospects doing to get ready for the combine? That and much more is packed into this week's Notebook.

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Andrew Weber/USA Today

From top to bottom, the 2014 draft is a very good class. Better than the 2013 group but not quite on par with the 2012 class, this year we see a crop of football players with tremendous potential.

The class is helped overall by the quarterbacks. Teddy Bridgewater, Blake Bortles, Johnny Manziel and Derek Carr all carry a first-round grade, as opposed to the 2013 class that had just one quarterback (EJ Manuel) drafted in the first round.

Outside of quarterback, there is fantastic depth at wide receiver and running back. You'll also notice another good group of offensive tackles, defensive ends and tight ends. No matter the needs of your team, this class has you covered.

Here are the top 300 players in the 2014 draft class, separated by position, from top to bottom.

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USA Today

It is the single most important position in football. It's the spot we all dream of playing when we're throwing the ball to ourselves in the back yard. It's where all the glory and all the blame run straight into each other.

Win and you're a god. Lose and you're out of town. Quarterbacks are the face of the franchise, on good days and bad days alike. And if you don't have a good one, your entire focus should be on finding one.

The 2014 class of quarterbacks is a good one—not quite 2012 good, but close. This class features runners and passers, as well as some who can do both. There are sure-things and major projects, but in each prospect there is the hope of a city and a franchise. The next Tom Brady could be in this class. The next Ryan Leaf could be in this class. But be sure, there's a lot of talent here.

What are teams looking for in a quarterback? Accuracy, most importantly, and from there it goes into personal preference. Some like them tall, and some like them fast. Some want them locked in the pocket, others want a guy moving around to make plays.

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Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

The days of the workhorse running back may be over, but try telling that to the Seattle Seahawks or San Francisco 49ers. Tell Eddie Lacy that he's supposed to share carries in Green Bay. Tell Adrian Peterson he has to give up touches to Toby Gerhart. Please, try it. Film his response for us. 

The running back isn't dead in the NFL, not by a long shot. The 2013 season was a reminder that the running game is still as important as anything in the game. The Seahawks rode Marshawn Lynch and a stout defense to a Super Bowl. The 49ers pounded Frank Gore into every defense they faced this year, while Colin Kaepernick struggled. Lacy put the Packers on his back when Aaron Rodgers went down. The Philadelphia Eagles and Kansas City Chiefs would not have been playoff teams without LeSean McCoy and Jamaal Charles, respectively.

So, what do you want in a running back? I want them fast, with the vision to see the hole and great cutback ability, too. I want them able to catch the ball and make plays with their feet. I want them strong enough to play between the tackles, but nimble enough to bounce and accelerate.

Running back is perhaps the toughest position to scout outside of quarterback, but it has to be done. Here's an in-depth look at "How to Scout Running Backs", but for today, here's your intro to the 10 best backs in the 2014 draft class. 

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In today's NFL, to have a truly great offense, you need great wide receivers. Period.

They are the soul-crushers of a defense and the chess pieces for offensive coordinators to make or break each week. They're game-changers. They're playmakers. They're the guys for whom your defensive coordinator stays up all night scheming, trying to find a way to shut down a 6'5", 230-pound nightmare with 4.4 speed. 

In the 2014 draft class, there is a lot to like at wide receiver: speed, size, a little of both, a lot of both and everything in between. The best receiver in this class isn't 5'9" and a player for whom you must scheme touches.

No, the best players in this class demand the ball. They go for it. 

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Getty Images

The days of the tight end being an extra offensive lineman are dead. Today's tight end must be equal parts wide receiver, fullback and offensive tackle. 

The current passing-friendly era of the NFL has brought a renewed importance to the tight end position. Fast players with long arms and big frames are the new matchup nightmare preferred by offenses and feared by defensive coordinators. NFL teams are looking for size but also speed, agility, balance and most importantly hands. You can see a full list of what scouts want in our "How to Scout" series, but today's tight end looks more like an NBA power forward.

And that's good news for this year's draft class. The top 10 players feature speed, size, long arms and the hands to catch in traffic or stretch the field. Here are the best of the best among tight ends for 2014.

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Bob Levey/Associated Press

They are blindside protectors and road graders in the run game. They're the cornerstones of an offensive line and the men called on to protect the $100 million men in the backfield. A great offensive lineman may not get a ton of notice on Sundays, until you don't have one. Then the world is ending for your team and your quarterback.

What do NFL teams look for when scouting offensive linemen? Size and speed are tops on the list, but technique is important too. Hand use, timing, balance and a powerful base are among the most important traits of an elite offensive lineman. You can see the full list in our "How to Scout" series, but the idea is to find a big man who moves like a small man and hits like a heavyweight. Easy, right?

As the 2014 NFL draft nears, these are the 10 best offensive linemen in the class. Big and bigger. Strong and stronger. These are the best of the best.

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Scott Halleran/Getty Images

It is officially NFL draft season, and there's no better way to kick things off than with a full seven-round mock draft. 

Now that the Super Bowl is in the books and the draft order is set, the process of connecting dots between college players and NFL teams can begin in earnest. Some of that may change once the NFL announces the 32 supplemental draft picks awarded to teams that lost priority free agents last season, but for now, a good bit of the work is done.

How does one go about compiling a seven-round mock draft? It's not as simple as dragging and dropping the top-ranked player into the No. 1 pick and so on. My goal is to provide insight with each pick. What are the team's needs? Whom might it lose in free agency, and whom might it gain? What are its long-term issues even after 2014? What schemes does it run?

Much goes into making a complete mock draft, and yet this isn't about pick accuracy. A mock draft is about informing readers about team needs, player value and what the writer would do in each situation. Put it all together, and you have a ton of information at your disposal.

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A great defense is built on the strength of its pass rush. Can you get to the quarterback? If not, good luck. 

Defensive ends remain the most important building block for most NFL general managers. When creating a plan for the foundation of their teams, it's all about adding a quarterback and a guy to attack the quarterback. With that in mind, who are the best pass-rushers in this year's draft class?

The flavor of these defensive ends varies. Some are a great fit for a 3-4 or 4-3 defense. Some may need to stand up and move to linebacker. Some are freaks who you just find a way to get onto the field.

What are NFL teams looking for? Speed, flexibility, strength and a variety of pass-rushing moves. You don't have to be a finished product, but you'd better be able to explode off the line and bend the edge. Here's a more in-depth look at how to scout defensive ends in our "How to Scout" series.

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AP Images

The first quarter of the NFL draft season is coming to a close with the Senior Bowl over and Super Bowl week officially here.

After Sunday night's big game, the final draft order will be set. From there, it's on to the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, where the whirlwind will be in full swing.

What has been learned in the last week? The Senior Bowl game offered more opportunities to evaluate players, and it has given analysts time to review practice footage in order to see more of the players noticed earlier in the week.

Here's this week's Scouting Notebook.