Knowing the Redskins' history with second-round draft choices, one is tempted to demand a limb count on this latest defensive-line phenom. And inquire about the new pass catcher: is he closer to 6-foot-4 or 4-foot-6?

The Redskins get it done through the draft, season after season, although how is a mystery. Their track record with second-rounders the last 24 years has been close to terrible. Their track record with low-round choices lately has been terrific.

Which suggests that they would snub their noses at Spectacular Bid and win the Kentucky Derby with a sway-backed colt discovered walking beside the milk wagon his father was pulling.

Whether the Washington draft wizard happens to be named McPeak or Lombardi, Allen or Beathard, the second round almost always is lively and controversial.

Yesterday was no exception. The team that flopped with Joe Hernandez (1962), Bob Breitenstein (1965), Eugene Epps (1969), Cotton Speyrer (1971), Mat Mendenhall (1980), Richard Williams (1983) and Tory Nixon (1985) embraced the unconventional once more.

Like his Redskins predecessors, Beathard is a strong-minded builder comfortable with risk. Everybody else trades up; he trades down -- and sees sturdy timber where others insist only balsa wood exists.

With the first of his highest picks yesterday, Beathard followed wisdom preached by chocaholics and Imelda Marcos: you can never get too much of a good thing.

Sometime over the years Ferdinand surely glanced at the new pumps on Imelda's feet and, remembering the 1,400 or so other pairs of shoes in the closet, exclaimed:

"Why?"

Same with Redskins fans around noon yesterday.

Beathard chose a guy whose last name suggests kinship with the mayor of New York City; except the pronunciation is the same as the Redskins' owner. That was not the only thing puzzling about Markus Koch.

He is a defensive lineman. And the Redskins seem to need one more defensive lineman the way the White House needs another autographed copy of David Stockman's book.

The line already is populated by Charles Mann, Dexter Manley, Dave Butz, Dean Hamel, Steve Hamilton, Darryl Grant and injury-plagued Bob Slater.

Much of the NFL has switched to a three-four defense the last several seasons. Perhaps the Redskins are going to try a 10-1 alignment, with the fastest man in the league, Darrell Green, responsible for anyone who breaks through the line.

Koch sounds very agreeable and very willing. Redskin Country does not extend to Boise State, but from there he also was surprised to be chosen by a team so deep at his position.

Surprisingly, Koch was the second Canadian citizen taken in the first 30 picks. The other was a first-rounder, tackle Mike Schad, and his selection by the Rams illustrates why drafting is an inexact science.

The Redskins rated Schad no higher than a fifth-rounder. In their evaluation, 140 or so other players were better. There was a difference of opinion on other matters.

Within their division, the Redskins were fairly pleased with the first-round selections of the Eagles (running back Keith Byars), the Giants (defensive tackle Eric Dorsey) and Cardinals (linebacker Anthony Bell).

Bell was the fifth player chosen; Washington projected him as a second or third rounder. Neither did the Redskins rate Dorsey as highly as the Giants. They also dream that Kelvin Bryant will be available to them about the time Byars is healthy enough to be productive for Philadelphia.

"A coach in the first year of his contract made that pick," a Redskins official said of Buddy Ryan gambling on Byars' recovery from foot problems. "A coach in the last year of his contract wouldn't have taken that chance."

A source familiar with Byars laughed: "He'll be able to play by the end of this season." The Redskins end their season against the Eagles.

Also, in a year not generally noted for quality defensive players, a team already exceptional on defense, the Giants, used its top five choices for two defensive tackles, a cornerback, a safety and a linebacker.

The Cowboys got what they needed badly, a quality wide receiver, in the first round. The Cowboys (Max Zendejas) and Cardinals (John Lee) also took the class of the place kickers.

The first round of this draft may have represented the greatest divergence of opinion among scouts in years. The Raiders' selection of defensive end Bob Buczkowski was seen around the league as a "shock."

"He wasn't even an achiever at Pitt," a scout said. "What may happen is the Raiders will switch him to the offensive line."

So Queen's University of Canada had the same number of first-round draftees as Oklahoma, Notre Dame, Alabama and Southern Cal. And one more than Penn State and a bunch of other powerhouses.

Koch's going as the third pick on the second round suggests an imminent invasion of Canada by collegiate recruiters.

As usual, the cold cuts and pasta lasted longer yesterday at Redskin Park than the Redskins' first-round choice for next year. To get wide receiver Walter Murray later in the second round, Beathard sent Washington's No. 1 in 1987 to the 49ers.

Like Allen, Beathard and Coach Joe Gibbs prefer to have a brilliant prospect such as Murray for an entire season before having to pay for him.

The last time the Redskins rolled the dice so heartily on draft day was five years ago. They traded their first-round pick in 1982 to the Rams to be in position on the third round to choose a Pitt center projected at another position.

Russ Grimm has more than justified that move.