How I Think Tom Telesco Will Draft
By: Adam Sadigh
In this mock draft, I will not be drafting and explaining my choices but rather looking at the tendencies Tom Telesco displays when drafting players throughout each round. To be clear, the picks made in this draft will be based on what I believe Tom Telesco could end up doing, not what I believe should happen. I will be using the past 3 drafts to look for tendencies in Teleco’s drafting plan. Let’s get into it!
In the past 3 drafts, the Chargers have acquired Mike Williams, Derwin James, and Jerry Tillery in the first round. First I’ll explain the Mike Williams pick. If we’re talking about the Chargers’ top needs in the 2017 draft, offensive tackle and safety probably come to mind with players like Ryan Ramczyk, Jamal Adams, and Malik Hooker being available in the draft. All 3 of those players were constantly mocked to the Chargers with the occasional surprise of wide receivers like Corey Davis and Mike Williams. This was actually a much bigger need than most remember. We weren’t sure at the time if Keenan Allen could even play a full season and we were left with Tyrell Williams, Travis Benjamin, and Dontrelle Inman. Take a look at where these guys are now and it’s hard to blame Telesco for being worried about the state of the position. QB could have been a sneaky pick as well with Rivers not getting any younger and guys like Mahomes, Watson, and Trubisky headlining the draft class. Ultimately, as we all know, the pick at 7 ended up being Mike Williams. What could have been the thinking behind this pick? The Chargers had just spent big money to acquire Russell Okung. The expectation was that he and Joe Barksdale could hold down the ends of the line. It’s understandable that at such a high pick, Telesco didn’t feel comfortable taking a tackle who may not have made an instant impact. That took offensive tackle off the board. The next biggest need was safety. The Chargers had just re-signed Jahleel Addae but they had a spot to fill at free safety. Jamal Adams came off the board one pick before the Chargers’ were set to pick. Malik Hooker, Mike Williams, Patrick Mahomes, and Deshaun Watson were all still on the board. The Chargers could have taken their quarterback of the future at 7, but it seemed like they were in a win-now mode with Rivers at QB. Ultimately, the choice seemed to narrow down to Mike Williams or Malik Hooker. Both players had the ability to make an instant impact and had all the potential you could ask for at their respective positions. When Hooker filled a larger need, why was Mike Williams the pick? Mike Williams had injury concerns but Malik Hooker only had one year of starting experience. Was he a one-year-wonder? I imagine that’s what was going through Telesco’s head during the draft. What can we learn from this pick? In the first round Telesco would rather gamble on a player with injury concerns than a player who hasn’t shown consistency throughout their collegiate career.
Now I’ll analyze the Derwin James pick. The top two needs in this draft seemed to be right tackle and linebacker. As mentioned above, the Chargers failed to address right tackle in the first round and it came back to bite them during the season. How was the linebacker room looking? Well… there was the often injured yet talented Denzel Perryman, back-up caliber players Kyle Emanuel and Hayes Pullard, and sophomore slump player Jatavis Brown. Next, the Chargers yet again found themselves searching for a free safety after their one-year rental Tre Boston departed in free agency. It’s fair to say that right tackle and linebacker were much larger needs than free safety, considering the fact that the Chargers could have re-signed Tre Boston. This pick is a lot easier to explain than the last pick. Philip Rivers was coming off an amazing season, leading everyone to believe that the Chargers could make a huge run the next year if they played their cards right. The top tackles were off the board by the time pick 17 rolled around. No need to reach there. 3 players must have been in consideration for this pick. Leighton Vander Esch, Rashaan Evans, and Derwin James. The thought was that if LVE was available at 17, the Chargers would draft him. There wasn’t a single thought about Derwin James falling to 17. Purely based on talent, James was ahead of LVE. Based on needs, LVE filled a bigger role. However, the versatility James offered allowed Telesco to feel comfortable taking him, knowing that he would fill a hole at safety and offer the ability to play at every position on defense except for DT. Telesco realized that you cannot pass up on talent like that even if there are more pressing needs. What can we learn from this pick? Telesco drafts the best player available.
Finally, I’ll analyze the Jerry Tillery pick. The Chargers made a deep run in the playoffs but unfortunately were unable to get past the Pats. This gave them pick 28. The top 2 needs in this draft were… you guessed it: offensive tackle and defensive tackle. This was evident by the way our trenches were dominated in the game against the Patriots. Another need was at free safety… again! Jahleel Addae could not play free safety, therefore he got the boot. Let’s take a look at the players who were available at 28. We had some tackles who weren’t worth a first round pick, some unproven defensive backs, and finally Jerry Tillery. This pick ultimately seemed like it was going to come down to reaching for a tackle or taking the best defensive tackle available. Telesco had said after the draft that Tillery was the only player left that he had a first round grade on. Most fans were probably hoping for a trade back but Telesco drafted Tillery. He filled a huge need at defensive tackle and offered some much needed pass rush from the interior of the defensive line. Many fans considered this a bad pick after one bad year but the truth is, there weren’t many better options and Tillery truly stood out as the last of the remaining possible elite players. Had Telesco reached for a tackle, we’d be looking at a rookie possibly riding the bench the entire season behind a couple of turnstiles. Tillery provided the possibility of a dominant pass rush, and he still does. What can we learn from this pick? Tom Telesco won’t reach for needs.
Using this information, what can we expect Tom Telesco to do in the first round? The Chargers are currently set to pick at 6 in the first round. Left tackle, quarterback, and wide receiver (Keenan Allen and Mike Williams are set to become free agents after the 2020 season) are arguably their biggest needs. Let’s take a look at the top prospects at each of these positions:
With the trade of Russell Okung, a massive hole at left tackle has been left over. The Chargers have a few options on the team. Trey Pipkins was drafted last year and showed flashes during his play. Another option is Sam Tevi although he has shown to be nothing more than a solid backup. The last option is switching Forrest Lamp over from guard to tackle. This option is the least likely scenario but it is worth mentioning here. I believe the team has faith in Pipkins and that they will give him every opportunity to start this season. I don’t think a tackle is in play at 6 for the Chargers. I’d look out for a second or later round flier on a guy or the team signing a veteran to mentor Pipkins.
Wide receiver could be a sneaky pick at 6. In the most talented receiver class in recent memory, could Telesco take someone like Jerry Jeudy or Henry Ruggs to fill the need for a speedy receiver who can take over the number 2 role if Allen or Williams were to depart in free agency? Although this would be a great draft to take a receiver like mentioned above, this class is extremely deep at the position and the Chargers may be making a mistake taking one so early. Wide receiver seems like a round 3-5 pick to me. That leaves the quarterbacks. Burrow will certainly be off the board by the time 6 rolls around and I do not expect the Chargers to trade up to get a quarterback. I also believe that the talk of the Chargers having interest in Jordan Love is smoke. There’s no denying the talent and potential he has. However, Anthony Lynn has constantly preached his desire for a safe quarterback. Love threw 17 interceptions this season compared to only 20 touchdowns. However you would like to split up the blame, Love was the one throwing the ball. Love would be a huge reach at 6 and from what we learned in last year’s draft, Telesco won’t reach for needs. I think at 6, one of either Tua or Herbert will be available for the Chargers to select. I also believe that the Chargers are high on both prospects and would be fine selecting either. Both players have shown consistency and improvement throughout their careers. Tua has the slight edge numbers wise but he also carries a huge injury risk with him. I think this could scare the Chargers off but if Tua were to prove that he’ll be ready to go week 1 health wise, I think the Chargers would be very happy taking him at 6. Herbert seems to be the safer prospect but there are some questions about his ability to rally his team in big moments. I don’t think this would scare off Telesco considering the reports that Herbert has been on their radar since his freshman year. Ultimately this pick will come down to whoever the Dolphins decide not to pick. This is also assuming a team doesn’t jump the Chargers or Fins to take one of the two QBs. Both players carry their own risks and I do not believe the Chargers would spend draft capital to move up and make sure they acquire one of the two.
Remember how we learned that Telesco will take the best player available. If Simmons is available, I think he will be the pick. Linebacker isn’t the most pressing need but calling Simmons anything other than a defensive player is ignorant. Simmons seems like one of the surest things in the draft. Adding him to an already talented defense would make it the best in the league.
I truly believe that Anthony Lynn wants to give Tyrod a fair shot at starting and if the pieces were to fall perfectly, the Chargers would get out of the first round with a defensive star.
Possible 1st Round Picks:
- Tua or Herbert