The Redskins already have an idea who they will draft this year.

"We've got to go around now and work each of 'em out," general manager Bobby Beathard said yesterday, "so we don't make any mistakes." He smiled, knowing that anyone left by the time the Redskins begin drafting - the eighth round - is more a suspect than a prospect.

Still. Beathard does have a sizable reputation within the NFL. As George Fazio is able to look at acres of cornfields and trees and see a championship golf course. Beathard has a flair for knowing which 6-4 collegians belong in the NFL rather than in insurance.

"He's got a helluva track record," said Mike Allman, the Redskins' director of player personnel, who has traveled many of the NFL trails with Beathard over the years, "and not an enemy in the business. Fact is about the only thing he ever lost was that race with Upton Bell."

That was in the late '60s, in the early-morning hours in Atlantic City. Both men, Beathard then with the Falcons and Bell with the Colts, considered themselves above-average distance runners, so off they went on the boardwalk. There was modest wagering among the other assembled scouts, with Beathard the clear favorite and holding a seemingly safe lead when they emerged through the fog and approached the finish line.

"Then Beathard looked around," said Allman, "and tripped, splattered all over the boardwalk. Upton might even have run over him. Anyway, Upton won, and Bobby's lying there all bloody and splintery and the Falcon guys are saying: 'Let him stay there. He's a loser.'"

Beathard is not from the traditional NFL general manager mold, except that he played briefly and advanced from the scouting ranks. The rest of the breed might rise at 5:30 a.m., but not for a six-mile run after 20 on weekends. Nor do his colleagues work in jeans, keep a jar of honey near the desk and pause during interviews to ask, "Mind if I eat an apple?"

"We were having breakfast one morning and I reached for the salt," said Allman, "but Bobby grabs my hand and says: 'Don't eat that stuff. That's the Silent Killer.' Another time, in Atlantic City, we're going to have some ice cream and I tell the lady I want vanilla.

"Bobby says: 'No.' I said: 'Don't you like vanilla?' and he said that wasn't it. She was giving us cones, and Bobby didn't like her touching the cones. Said he'd get a dish.

"I said: 'Bobby, one of these mornings you'll be running through some tough neighborhood, step off the sidewalk and get flattened by a truck - but damned if you won't be the greatest-looking guy in the morgue."

And when was the last time a Redskin general manager mentioned fun? As in: "It's fun every day. I've been lucky in life. A few years ago, I came close to remarrying, but then the girl started telling me - a couple of months before the date - that I ought to get out of football.

"She said it was a kid's game, that I should be doing something serious, that I couldn't be a kid all my life. But so many people don't like what they're doing. I'm fortunate to be in something that's fun.

"So I said to her: 'Hey, there's no way I'm going through with this.'"

Now and then, scouts scout, and between sessions with Stan West, Bum Phillips, Allman and others in the Y'all Come Back saloons of the nation, Beathard has honed that special talent that separates the evaluators from the lookers.

"One of the hard things," he said, "is to be as objective as you should be. You'll get to know a player, and because he might be a heckuva guy you'll rate him higher than he deserves.

"Scouts with coaching backgrounds tend to put too much faith in the college coaches, to take for granted that all coaches are good evaluators.You have to do your own evaluations.

"A common problem is looking at a player who is the over-achiever type, someone like a (Gary) Beban or (Terry) Baker with not a lot of ability but who does everything asked of him. You have to project him to the NFL, and realize he's not good enough to do what he has to do."

It may come as a surprise to know that the Redskins are a member of a scouting combin, something called United that Beathard plans to use as a supplement to his, Allman's and other Redskin eyes.

Like anyone who has been in the business a decent amount of time, and he broke in during the AFL-NFL wars of the early '60s, Beathard has made his share of mistakes. He also realizes that teams such as the Dolphins, which he helped stock the last five years, cannot thrive without excellent personnel and excellent coaching.

For Jack Pardee, he hopes to unearth a Leroy Harris or Gary Davis or Norris Thomas, late-round choices who became important factors with the Dolphins. And a George Kunz when the Redskins actually get high draft choices.

"Part of all this," Beathard said, "is judging which round you project a player - and also which round you believe everyone projects him. If you project a guy as a third-rounder and the combine projects him as an eight-rounder, you might wait 'til the sixth round to take him.

"You have to be lucky . . . By the way, am I ever glad the Cardinals got rid of Terry Metcalf."