If Heisman Trophy winner Charles White is available when Washinton picks during the first round of the upcoming NFL draft, the Redskins most likely will not select him despite their acknowledged need for a quality running back.
Although General Manager Bobby Beathard yesterday would not rule out the choice of White by the club, team sources say that Washington has other running backs and players at other positions rated higher than the Southern California athlete -- who probably will be around when the Redskins tab the 18th player in the first round.
NFL draft experts say that White, regarded by many as the third or fourth-best back in the draft pool, will not be picked until midway or late in the first round. He is considered small for a back by league standards and there are defensive linemen, wide receivers and defensive backs also destined to go ahead of him in the first round.
"white may not be taken until the second round," one NFL general manager ventured. "he's good but he's not in the class with Ricky Bell or O.J. Simpson. He's a lot like Anthony Davis (USC back who was a pro bust) but he is better."
Beathard granted that if White is available, "we'd have to consider him. He's been a heck of a football player.
"but we have to wait and see what other players are left and what positions are available. We have several players who are there we like and we'll have to make a decision if he is still around."
Asked if the club would take another back over White, Beathard said he preferred not to answer that question.
"there are so many variables in this draft and we have to pinpoint just exactly who we will tab," Beathard said.
Beathard has been very cautious about discussing the draft, mainly because he feels he cannot tip his hand to teams picking ahead of him.
He refused to name the backs the Redskins rate the highest, other than to acknowledge that Oklahoma's Billy Sims is their top choice. Sims most likely will be the first player taken in the draft, a selection owned by the Detroit Lions.
Other running backs considered top quality and Redskin possibilities include Notre Dame's Vagas Ferguson, Texas A&M's Curtis Dickey, Nebraska's I. M. Hipp, Auburn's Joe Cribbs, Jackson State's Perry Herrington and Rice's Earl Cooper.
Ferguson is usually figured as the No. 2 back in the draft, so it is unlikely he will last until the 18th selection. Dickey, a world-class sprinter, is a possible as a wide receiver. Hipp had a sensational sophomore year at Nebraska, then tailed off. Harrington, from Walter Payton's old school, has the size of a fullback, as does Cooper. Cribbs stands only 5 feet 9 and is not well known nationally.
"if White is left on our turn," one team source said, "and no other good back is left, we'd go to another position instead of taking a runner. Bobby has been known to do things that no one expects but he's got a great track record so it's hard to argue with him."
Besides running back, the Redskins need defensive linemen, wide receivers, cornerbacks and offensive tackles from this draft.