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Pipeline to the Pros: Top 25 CFB teams with most NFL talent

Rick Scuteri / Associated Press
Arizona State's Jaelen Strong is showing he has the potential to be a No. 1 wide receiver at the next level.


14 for '14 series:
CFB 24/7 counts down the 14 college football players or coaches to watch in varying categories in 2014.

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» Best uniforms in college football
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» Smartest players in college football
» Most physical players in college football
» College football players with best intangibles

21. Missouri Tigers


Players to watch: DE Markus Golden, QB Maty Mauk, DE Shane Ray

The outlook: The Tigers have quietly become a football factory for NFL talent, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. Since 2009, they have produced six first-round picks, including talented defenders like Sean Weatherspoon, Sheldon Richardson, Aldon Smith and Ziggy Hood. With a pair of intriguing prospects along the defensive line (Markus Golden and Shane Ray), Missouri's growing reputation as an NFL hotbed should continue under coach Gary Pinkel.

Newcomer in the spotlight: OLB Brandon Lee. The highly touted linebacker prospect could make an immediate impact for the Tigers as a weakside 'backer in their 4-3 scheme.

22. Texas Longhorns


Players to watch: DE Cedric Reed, DT Malcolm Brown, RB Malcolm Brown, RB Johnathan Gray

The outlook: Coach Charlie Strong inherits a talented roster chock full of NFL-caliber players, even though the Longhorns failed to produce a single draft pick in 2014. NFL scouts are well aware of prospects like Reed and CB Quandre Diggs, but evaluators I've spoken to are intrigued by the potential of RBs Malcolm Brown and Johnathan Gray as workhorse runners. Although the Longhorns should rank higher on the list based on their recruiting success, the loss of a few blue-chip prospects to suspensions, dismissals and transfers have weakened a roster that would rank as one of college football's best squads on paper.

Newcomer in the spotlight: QB Jerrod Heard. The Longhorns have struggled at the quarterback position since Colt McCoy's departure after the 2009 season. Heard could be the answer to the team's woes as a dual-threat playmaker with big-time talent.

23. Arizona State Sun Devils


Players to watch: QB Taylor Kelly, WR Jaelen Strong, G Jamil Douglas, RB D.J. Foster

The outlook: Coach Todd Graham has quickly built the Sun Devils into a legitimate contender in the Pac-12 South by relying on a number of NFL-caliber players on the defensive side of the ball. The tradition should continue with Arizona State fielding a handful of standouts on offense, including Kelly and Strong. The duo is nearly impossible to slow down and NFL scouts are already aware of Strong's potential as a prototypical No. 1 receiver at the next level.

Newcomer in the spotlight: QB Manny Wilkins. He won't be pressed into action as a freshman, but he is the future at the position for the Sun Devils. The four-star recruit is a dynamic dual-threat playmaker who fits in well with Graham's fast-paced spread scheme.

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24. Iowa Hawkeyes


Players to watch: DT Carl Davis, OT Brandon Scherff, S John Lowdermilk, WR Kevonte Martin-Manley

The outlook: Kirk Ferentz and his coaching staff are excellent teachers and developers of talent. They deserve a ton of credit for being able to routinely transform lightly regarded recruiting classes into competitive squads in the Big Ten. Ferentz and his staff have churned out enough solid NFL players to earn the respect of evaluators looking for prospects capable of making a 53-man roster. With Davis and Scherff ranking as top prospects at their respective positions, Ferentz can expect to see a number of scouts scribbling notes from the sidelines this season.

Newcomer in the spotlight: QB Tyler Wiegers. At a time when schools are searching high and low for dual-threat quarterbacks, the Hawkeyes landed a traditional pocket passer to anchor their offensive attack. Wiegers is an ideal fit in Iowa's scheme, which gives him a chance to see action early in his career.

25. Penn State Nittany Lions


Players to watch: QB Christian Hackenberg, TE Adam Breneman, RB Bill Belton, G Miles Dieffenbach, DE C.J. Olaniyan

The outlook: NCAA sanctions have certainly weakened the depth throughout the program, but the Nittany Lions have a few prospects walking around campus that should make their way to the NFL. Hackenberg is the headliner as a marquee quarterback with the kind of blue-chip characteristics that traditionalists covet at the position. He could emerge as the top quarterback in college football and usher in a new era of success under new head coach James Franklin.

Newcomer in the spotlight: DT Tarow Barney. The Nittany Lions rarely venture down the JUCO path, but Barney gives the team an experienced defensive tackle to throw into the rotation. Given his size (6-foot-1, 298 pounds) and strength, he could be an immediate contributor for Franklin's squad.

Follow Bucky Brooks on Twitter @BuckyBrooks.

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