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Trevor Ruszkowski/USA Today

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*

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The 2014 NFL draft will be heavy on quarterback prospects ready to step into the pros and run an offense. But who are these quarterbacks?

We all know about Johnny Manziel—maybe too much actually, thanks to his Heisman Trophy season and summer of off-field antics. But what do we know about his game? And aside from Manziel and perceived top quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who are the other top players at the game's most important position?

There are seniors, juniors and even redshirt sophomores who have caught the attention of the NFL this fall. Six of those quarterbacks carry a first-round grade as the college season comes to a close.

Let's learn who they are.

 

Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville

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Throughout the season, NFL teams are doing self-evaluations to determine which positions need an upgrade, which need more depth and which are strong headed into the offseason.

At Bleacher Report, we're doing the same thing.

Each team's roster has been scouted over the course of the first half of the NFL season with an eye on where improvements can be made. For some teams, it's a key free agent they must re-sign. For others, it's a lack of talent or youth at a certain position.

The following look at team needs is based on the roster as it stands today, with pending free agents taken into account. And personnel fits are based on the current coaching staff. There will obviously be coaching changes that alter those fits, and the list will be updated accordingly.

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How would the 2013 NFL draft look if we were able to do it all over again right now? To be blunt, it wouldn't look the same at all.

The Kansas City Chiefs would love the chance to swap Eric Fisher out for a more dependable player. Had we known what EJ Manuel and Geno Smith would look like, multiple teams would jump at the chance to have them on their roster.

Unfortunately the NFL doesn't allow a midseason re-draft, but we do.

 

A few ground rules: