At this time last season, two days before the NFL draft, Bobby Beathard was so excited he ran several extra miles every morning just to reduce his flow of adrenaline.
He was sure he knew what players would be available when the Redskins' turn came up in the first round; Joe Cribbs or Art Monk. He even was sure what player he would be able to select in round two: Mat Mendenhall.
"There was some anxiety involved, but I had done enough checking that everything seemed to fall into place," he said. And it did. The Redskins picked Monk, then Mendenhall. Beathard couldn't wipe the grin from his face for days.
But this is different. Beathard has tossed around some names he might select with his No. 1 choice, although he's not telling. The only prospects he's really excited about probably will be long gone by the time he picks: 19 other clubs select before the Redskins.
To make things more complicated, Brad Dusek's back operation has widened the possible first-round choice considerations. Beathard does not really want to choose a linebacker that early, since the rookie most likely would be a reserve next season. But he realizes if one of the club's starting linebackers is injured, he has no one to replace him. That could influence his thinking more and more as Tuesday draws closer.
Beathard also won't rule ont last-minute trades, especially for Colt halfback Joe Washington, although he said the chance for any deal is remote.
"Things just aren't as settled as last season," Beathard said. "We had the ninth pick for so long that it's taken us time to readjust our thinking to having the 20th.
"We'll get a very good player, no question about that, in the first round. I'm just not sure which one it will be."
The Redskins' first priority remains a defensive lineman, although they have a better chance of winding up with an offensive lineman on the first round.
Mock drafts conducted around the league last week indicated that the Redskins might be able to select one of four outstanding prospects: offensive tackle Mark May (6-5, 270), Pittsburgh, the Outland Trophy winner; offensive tackle Brian Holloway (6-7, 270), Stanford and Churchhill High; defensive tackle Keith Gary (6-3, 255), Oklahoma, and wide receiver Cris Collinsworth (6-3, 185), Kansas.
The Redskins could select a player in that opening round who won't necessarily fill a glaring team need. For example, a wide receiver like Collinsworth to pair with Monk. If that occurs, then Beathard says he feels certain he can use his other selections to secure a defensive lineman, a running back, an offensive lineman and a linebacker.
"I'm sure if we announce we took a wide receiver in the first round, people will be really surprised," he said. "They have to realize that you go with the best player you can get in the first round and then after that, you really concentrate on needs."
Beathard has a history of going against the draft grain and selecting players who sometimes aren't rated nearly as highly by other teams. So it's difficult to predict how he will move in the first round.But if he sticks to more conventional form, and the players are still available, he may choose among the following.
Wide receivers: Collinsworth of Florida and Mike Nichols of San Jose State. The best receiver in the draft, David Verser of Kansas, should be gone by the 20th pick. If he isn't, can the Redskins resist taking him?
Offensive linemen: Curt Marsh of Washington and Howard Richards of Missouri. The best offensive linemen in the draft are May, Holloway and Keith Van Horne of Southern California. The Redskins would have to jump at any of the three if available.
Defensive linemen: Gary and John Harty of Iowa. The top defensive linemen in the draft are Leonard Mitchell of Houston, Donnell Thompson of North Carolina and Gary. There are questions about Mitchell's dedication and he could last a lot longer than expected. But it seems unlikely Washington will take a chance on him. And is Gary good enough to grap on the first round? Beathard won't rule him out.
Linebackers: Ricky Jackson of Pittsburgh and Mel Owens of Michigan. E.J. Junior, Hugh Green and Lawrence Taylor are classy linebackers who will be gobbled up quickly. But Jackson and Owens also may be promising enough to be No. 1 choices.
Others: The most talented running backs will not last long, but James Brooks of Auburn would be tempting. Joe Delaney of Northwest Louisiana is an outside possibility. There is a horde of tight ends in this draft, including Willie Scott of South Carolina, but the Redskins are pleased with Don Warren and would like to concentrate on other positions. If quarterbacks Neil Lomax of Portland State or Rich Campbell of California was available, Beathard probably couldn't resist choosing them.
"If there is a quarterback available you always have to think seriously about picking him," Beathard said.
The Redskins also have picks in the second (52nd overall), fourth, fifth, six, eighth, ninth, 11th, and 12th rounds. Washington traded away its third-round choice in 1977 to Los Angeles in order to trade seventh picks and obtain a ninth, one of George Allen's more incredible deals. The Redskins lost their seventh in a 1978 deal with the Rams involving Eddie Brown for Jeff Williams and three selections. They dealt off their 10th to Cleveland for Tony Peters.
When Washington had the ninth selection in the first round, before switching places with Los Angeles, Beathard could have predicted his choice.Now he'll be watching the first few minutes along with everyone else.
Although Bum Phillips of New Orleans has resisted so far any enticements to deal off the No. 1 pick, it wouldn't be suprising to see him agree to a trade just before the draft begins. If that happens, all bets are off for the rest of the round.
Phillips already has said he will go with Heisman Trophy winner George Rogers. Draft experts think he'd be smarter to select linebacker Taylor, by far the best athlete coming out of college this season.
"Taylor is a horse, a real horse," said Beathard. "He's big and strong and fast and he goes all out on every play. How can you ask for more? I just wish we had a shot at him."
Taylor most likely will wind up with the Giants, who have the second choice. After that, the early choices will likely include Green and Junior, defensive backs Kenny Easley and Ronnie Lott, running backs Randy McMillan of Pittsburgh and Freeman McNeil of UCLA and Lomax and Campbell.
These are the needs of the first 10 teams:
New Orleans -- everything, but especially linebacker and secondary; Giants -- running back; Jets -- linebacker, secondary; Seattle -- tight end, running back; St Louis -- offensive tackle; Green Bay -- defensive tackle, wide receiver; Tampa Bay -- secondary, wide receiver, running back; San Francisco -- secondary; Los Angeles -- quarterback, tight end; Cincinnati -- offensive linemen, linebacker.
Most consider this an excellent draft, especially in terms of depth, although there are not many legitimate superstars. The best positions are receivers, tight ends, tackles, linebackers and safeties -- all kinds of safeties. But don't look for many running backs, quarterbacks and kickers to be selected in the first five rounds.