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The first Scouting Notebook of 2014 comes with the NFL's regular season completed and only a handful of college bowl games left to be played. Ready or not, the offseason is fast approaching. It's time to get ready for months of analysis regarding free agents and the upcoming 2014 draft class.

Speaking of the 2014 draft, we're already seeing a solid group of underclassmen entering this year's crop. Top names like Teddy Bridgewater (QB, Louisville) and Jadeveon Clowney (DE, South Carolina) made their entries official this week, and we can safely expect other top juniors like Sammy Watkins (WR, Clemson) to soon follow their lead.

There's a lot to get to this week, so let's get started.

 

 

Five Up

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The 2013 NFL regular season is in the books, and for the 20 teams not headed to the playoffs, it's officially NFL draft season.

The draft order for the top 20 picks is set, and already we have underclassmen declaring their intentions for the upcoming season. With that information starting to come together, what better time to unleash the first full seven-round mock draft of the year?

Why do a mock draft before the playoffs even begin? It's important to start the education process for the fans of the eliminated teams. And while a Dec. 30 mock draft won't be heavily accurate, it does show current team needs before free agency and matches those needs up with the current value of draft-eligible players.

A few notes on mock drafts, especially those coming this early in the process:

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With Christmas in our rearview mirrors, college football heads into bowl season, and a crucial time of player evaluation begins.

For many college players, the best competition they will face all season comes in a bowl game. For players like Fresno State's Derek Carr, who struggled against USC in the Las Vegas Bowl, it's important to hit the ground running after the bowls to repair any damage done to their stock in the bowl game. But can a player really hurt his stock in one game? That's something we'll dig into this week.

This is an exciting week on the NFL draft calendar, and a full slate of games gives us plenty to watch this week. 

Let's get started.

 

 

Five Up

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It is officially NFL draft season—or at least it is in my office.

Now that the Army-Navy game is over, and with just two weeks left in the NFL season, my focus goes to the 2014 draft and offseason scouting of players. Just like what you'd see in an NFL front office, except here it's a one-man show.

The winter months are a time to do serious evaluation heading into the upcoming draft class. And as we prep for the Senior Bowl and NFL Scouting Combine, that means more efforts spent digging deep on draft prospects and a second look at the top guys scouted throughout the season.

That will lead to changes in rankings and ultimately mock drafts too. This is a draftnik's favorite time of year, though, so let's get started.

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USA Today

The college football season comes to a close this week, with only the must-see Army vs. Navy game left on the schedule. As sad as the end of the regular season makes us all, the good news is the NFL draft season really starts to heat up now.

With fewer games each Saturday—and fewer NFL coverage responsibilities—this is the time of year when I'm able to dig in and start scouting players heavily. My focus, like that of NFL teams already eliminated from the playoffs, starts to shift from Sundays to the film room. And each week you'll find what I've learned in this space.

Let's get started.

 

 

Five Up

5. RB Carlos Hyde, Ohio State

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The 2013 NFL regular season isn't over—we've still got three weeks of great professional football left—but fans of eliminated teams are already chomping at the bit for draft coverage. So much so on Twitter that a new mock draft was demanded Sunday night.

You asked, and I'm at your beck and call. 

With more information coming in daily about which underclassmen will enter the 2014 draft, which will return to school and how the draft order will look, a projection of the first round is much clearer than it was three months ago. Of course there is still plenty of time between now and the May draft, but this is a picture of how the 2014 draft would look as of today.

The draft order is up to date as of December 8 and courtesy of Draft Falcons. There are no projected trades (nor will there ever be in my mock drafts), and players are either seniors, already declared for the draft or expected to be by the January 15 deadline.

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The week before conference championship games is usually a quiet one for NFL draft fans, but not this week. Instead, it's been a roller coaster of information and analysis.

We've lost two quarterbacks to season-ending ACL injuries. The No. 2 overall player in the class decided to head back to school. And as NFL teams dig in on prospects, concerns are growing about the No. 1 player in the class.

This and so much more awaits you in this week's Scouting Notebook. 

— Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota announced he will return to school for his redshirt junior season. The 20-year-old dual-threat star ranked as the No. 2 overall player in the draft before his announcement and will head into next season as the No. 1 prospect. Mariota's decision to return is a wise one, and it's something I talked about here last week. He still has room to grow and the reality is his age and lack of experience would have been a negative in the draft process. Now, Mariota can work on his game while making a run at a national title and a Heisman Trophy season in 2014. 

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It's NFL draft season, folks. 

Whether you're a fan of a team out of playoff contention or one fighting for a Super Bowl, you can start looking ahead to the 2014 NFL draft with more certainty heading into Week 13. As the draft order comes into focus, and as underclassmen start making their intentions known for next season, there's a ton of information to digest.

Each Thursday morning you can get all the updates, analysis and rumors you need to keep on top of the craziness that is draft season.

Let's get started.

 

   

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If you find yourself ready for the 2014 NFL draft but aren’t sure where to go for updated information and analysis, you’ve found the right place. Welcome to the first edition of a new weekly column—my NFL draft scouting notebook.

This column will serve as a type of mind dump of all pertinent NFL draft news from the previous week. No one person can keep track of every player, every storyline and every injury, but here you will get the biggest news and how that news affects draft stock, team needs and other draft-related possibilities.

Every Thursday morning—from now until the draft—you’ll get analysis, insider information, personal scouting notes and hopefully a few interesting nuggets.

Let’s get started.

 

Five Up

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If you're a fan of the Jacksonville Jaguars or Houston Texans, you're already looking ahead to the 2014 NFL draft and wondering who your team will add to the depth chart. If you're a team like the Carolina Panthers, who are oh-so-close to a playoff run, the 2014 draft will be about grabbing the one or two players needed to become a consistent competitor.

Whether you're rooting for a team in major need of a rebuild or a team looking to merely upgrade its already loaded talent, the 2014 draft will be a big one. Who brings home Teddy Bridgewater to lead the franchise? Who's going to get lucky enough to nab defensive end Jadeveon Clowney?

Find out with a full two-round mock draft.

 

*Draft order courtesy of Over the Cap*