The Washington Redskins finally selected a running back yesterday, taking Utah's Lewis Walker in the 10th round of the NFL draft. But it is becoming more apparent that, before the end of training camp, they will trade for a running back.
"We would have liked to take a running back higher," admitted General Manager Bobby Beathard yesterday after he had picked up five more players on the final day of the draft.
"It was one of our biggest needs," Beathard continued. "If we had all the choices the Rams did, we could have solved all of our needs.
"We can go with some free agents (at running back) and we haven't ruled out anything, including a trade. We are going to keep our eyes and ears open."
Other team sources were stronger, however, noting that it would be surprising if the Redskins didn't trade for a player who could beat out incumbent Benny Malone. Washington probably will use one of its three veteran cornerbacks -- Lemar Parrish, Joe Lavender or newly acquired Jeris White -- as trade bait.
"We can't go into camp with Benny as our starter," said one source. "We've got to do something and we will."
Besides Walker, the Redskins yesterday also selected:
Guard Melvin Jones, a 6-2, 265-pound guard from Houston, in the seventh round. Beathard had him rated ahead of all-American Brad Budde as the No. 2 guard entering the draft. "He can be a starter here," said one source.
Lawrence McCullough, a 5-11, 194-pound wide receiver from Illinois. Termed by Beathard as "our real sleeper," he was a quarterback in college who was projected by Washington as an end when other clubs rejected him as a quarterback. He also could be a running back.
Mike Matocha, a 6-4, 245-pound defensive end from the University of Texas-Arlington, in the 11th round. Rated highly by Redskin scout Dick Daniels, who came up with last year's sleeper, Monte Coleman, Matocha is a pass rusher who Beathard thinks could build himself up to 255 pounds.
Marcene Emmett, a 5-11, 195-pound cornerback from North Alabama, is the 12th round. Scout Charley Taylor believes Emmett, has ability comparable to some players on the roster. He runs a 4.55 40-yard dash and is a "tough kid," according to Beathard.
With their eight picks in the draft -- they traded their fourth pick and Danny Buggs Tuesday for Tampa's Jeris White -- the Redskins selected three defensive linemen, one running bac, two wide receivers, one cornerback and one offensive lineman.
"We're happy with the draft," Beathard said. "We felt we never got into a grab-bag thing where we were just taking players with no purpose. We would have liked to have the draft go 17 rounds. There are still players out there."
The Redskins hope to sign some of the better undrafted prospects to free-agent contracts. Even before the 12th round was over yesterday, their scouts were calling players, asking if they would fly to Redskin Park today and sign up with the team.
"It's kind of frustrating seeing players out there in the middle and late rounds and not having picks to take them," Beathard said. "Hopefully, in a couple of years, we'll be able to stockpile our choices and have a deeper draft."
The Redskins took care of two of their priorities -- wide receiver and defensive line -- with their two opening picks in the draft. But they admit Walker is a longshot, at best, to solve their other major need at running back.
"He has good vision and good feet," said Mike Allman, personnel director. "But to be left that late in the draft, he isn't a great one. He needs to get stronger and bigger."
Walker gained 837 yards in two years at Utah after transferring from Antelope Valley (Calif.) Junior College. He averaged a Western Athletic Conference-record 7.7 yards a carry his senior season and also was a decent kick returner.
McCullough is another possible surprise. Bobby Mitchell found him at his alma mater and the Redskins were enthusiastic about his athletic ability and speed.