INDIANAPOLIS — The jumping-off point for the 2013 NFL season, the annual scouting combine, features a celebrated leaper and a much-scrutinized leap of faith among the more than 300 college players who will be evaluated by the league's scouts, coaches and executives.
The leaper is Texas receiver Marquise Goodwin, who finished 10th in the long jump at the London Olympics, and the leap of faith is Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o, whose stellar college career was marred by a poor performance in the Bowl Championship Series title game and a bizarre hoax involving a make-believe dead girlfriend.
Te'o, in particular, figures to draw a crowd of reporters that will test the capacity of the makeshift media center at Lucas Oil Stadium, where the six-day event takes place. The combine gets under way today with measurements and medical examinations of offensive linemen and special-teams players.
The distinguishing characteristic of this draft class could be that there are relatively few dazzling stars, especially at quarterback, which probably will have teams trying to trade out of the top 10 spots in hopes of getting value later.
Draft expert Mike Mayock of the NFL Network said he doesn't see as many "difference makers" at the top of the draft as in recent years but that "we probably have better depth than we've had in the last 10 years."
In each of the last two years, four quarterbacks were selected in the opening round. And the offensive rookie of the year last season was Seattle's Russell Wilson, a third-round pick in 2012.
By Mayock's thinking, there are a "whole lot of holes in the quarterback class," one that features West Virginia's Geno Smith, USC's Matt Barkley and Tennessee's Tyler Bray.
For years, only representatives of the teams were allowed to watch the workouts. But in recent years, the league has allowed increased access to what happens on the field. Beginning Saturday morning, NFL Network will air wall-to-wall coverage that concludes with a wrap-up show Wednesday evening.
"For the rabid fans and the interest that we've built year to year, we're finding that folks are interested in it," said Mike Muriano, a senior coordinating producer for the network.
Among the changes this year, the league will administer a complementary aptitude test to the Wonderlic exam — the old standard — and it's one that some people believe is a more relevant indicator of how players will handle the intellectual challenge of the pros.
The new test, called the Player Assessment Tool, is a 60-minute computerized exam designed to give evaluators a more complete picture of a prospect's mental capacity.
As for what players can do on the field, that will be evaluated in most cases, although the league is still grappling with the frustration that not all players who attend the combine choose to work out there. Many of the top prospects instead opt to run, lift or throw at their "pro day" workouts on their own campus.
That's the case for Barkley, for instance, although his agent said the former Trojans quarterback will not throw at the combine because he wants to make sure his recuperating right shoulder is 100 percent healthy for his workout.
"Having players do their own workouts has always seemed a little bit silly," New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft said in a phone interview. "Part of that is the agent community trying to control their own venue. It would be good if it could be standardized where everyone was in the same situation with the same variables, and we made it as close to a game condition as we could make it."