DALLAS -- Going into the 1981 college draft, the Dallas Cowboys were in need of help at linebacker and in the secondary.
So on their first two rounds the Cowboys selected an offensive lineman, bolstering perhaps the strongest portion of the team, and a wide receiver, a position already so loaded with talent that one of the team's pass catchers is continually asning to be traded.
'No, I'm not discouraged,' said Cowboys' coach Tom Landry, who saw the top linebackers and defensive backs go to other clubs before Dallas could utilize its first-round pick. 'I didn't expect to get them because I knew where we were drafting.
'I got kind of excited for a while, though.'
Landry and the members of his staff were excited because it appeared that one of the two cornerbacks they wanted -- Hanford Dixon of Southern Mississippi and Bobby Butler of Florida State -- might still be on the board when Dallas drafted No. 26.
But Dixon went as player No. 22 to Cleveland and the Atlanta Falcons, drafting just ahead of Dallas, picked Butler.
That left Dallas with just one player on its 'top plateau list,' that group of athletes who are rated as sure starters within two years. That player was Howard Richards, an offensive tackle from Missouri.
'I'm totally elated,' Richards said from Columbia, Mo. 'I had no idea the Cowboys were interested in me.'
The 6-5, 255-pound Richards will be tried at either tackle or guard by the Cowboys next season and Landry said despite the need at linebacker and defensive back, he was happy to have the Missouri product.
'We like players who are 6-5,' the coach said. 'We had him rated right in the middle of the first round.'
The No. 2 pick was used to select speedy wide receiver Doug Donley of Ohio State, who ran a 9.4 100-yard dash in high school and set a Buckeyes record by catching 887 yards worth of passes last season.
The only trouble is that the Cowboys already have Drew Pearson, Tony Hill and Butch Johnson at wide receiver and Johnson has often mentioned that he would like to be playing full time somewhere else rather than part time with Dallas.
'If we have four receivers capable of playing in the NFL like we expect we will have, then we will have four receivers on our team,' said Landry.
In the third round Dallas chose defensive end Glen Titsenor of Brigham Young and with two picks in the fourth round the Cowboys finally did choose some linebackers -- Derrie Nelson of Nebraska and Scott Pelluer of Washington State.
Other choices made Tuesday included linebacker Danny Spradlin of Tennessee in the fifth round and defensive back Vince Skillings of Ohio State in the sixth round.
'We got two top players with our top two picks,' Landry said. 'When you continue to get players of that caliber, no matter what position they play, then you will do all right in the long run.
'As far as defensive backs go, that is a position at which you can often find good players among the free agents. It was only a few years ago that we started drafting for defensive backs.'
This year, however, several teams went after the defensive backs and linebackers early in the first round. There were nine defensive backs or linebackers chosen among the first 25 picks.
'Usually the base of the draft is big offensive linemen,' said Landry. 'But this year there were so many good linebackers and defensive backs that they took the place of the big men in the early selections.'