The United States Football League will hold its first open college draft Tuesday and Ray Jauch, Washington Federals coach, says he will pick top prospects in the opening rounds, even though the established National Football League, with its prestige and resources, has a considerably better chance to sign them. The Federals, who will draft fourth among the USFL's 12 franchises, are particularly looking for a quarterback, he said.
"We are not going to shy away from the big-name players," the coach, whose teams have traditionally been pass-oriented, emphasized.
"Obviously, we're not going to sign all the players we draft," said General Manager Dick Myers.
"In this first season, I expect some (players) will wait for the NFL draft and think about what the new league is about. I think that's what the first-rounders will do, anyway."
"I think what you will see in the opening rounds is virtually a list of the major people in the country," said Jauch. "In the later rounds, you'll see more of a projection of whom we can possibly sign."
When Jauch was coaching in Canada, his teams' offenses resembled that of the San Diego Chargers: they threw all the time.
"Yes, we have to look at the quarterback situation right away," said Jauch. "It's a distinct possibility that we'll draft a quarterback right away."
To date, the Federals have signed about 70 players who will attend training camp in Jacksonville in February before the season starts in early March. The Federals, like most of the other teams in the USFL, plan to bring approximately 100 players to camp before gradually reducing the roster to a season-starting 40.
It would be false advertising to describe the roster as it now stands as consisting of much more than castoffs from the NFL.
But Jauch and Myers are hoping that such younger players as former Maryland running back Charlie Wysocki and former Clemson tight end Michael Wade will prove themselves in the USFL.
Before the open draft begins early Tuesday, the league will announce the results of a territorial draft in which each of the teams will select--or "protect"--26 players from their five regional colleges.
The Federals' regional colleges are Maryland, Clemson, Virginia, Richmond and South Carolina.
Some teams, of course, could be blessed by the territorial draft:
Stanford quarterback John Elway, for instance, will be "protected" by Oakland.
"The highest-rated guy in our territory is Terry Kinard, the safety from Clemson," said Myers, adding that the Federals expect to select Kinard in the territorial draft.
With Elway protected, Jauch could not say which quarterback prospect of the many fine ones available this year he would like to sign. "We really have to see who is protected and who the first three teams take. We're not the only ones in need of a quarterback," he said.
Jauch acknowledged the importance for both the team and league of signing better-known rookies or veteran pros:
"The AFL gained credibility in 1960 when they signed Billy Cannon, who had won the Heisman. And then signing Joe Namath helped."
Most of the teams in the league have budgeted about $1.5 million for first-year salaries, anywhere from half to a third of what NFL teams spend. Jauch said the Federals, like most other USFL teams, will sign most of their players to "normal" contracts, but will try to lure their two top prospects, be they college draft choices or free agents, with an "unlimited" contract.
"Of course, we don't know what those top salaries will be," said Jauch.