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Tom Telesco’s Patience Pays off Draft Weekend

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The Los Angeles Chargers’ general manager had himself a quality NFL Draft.

NFL: Los Angeles Chargers-Head Coach Anthony Lynn Press Conference Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

What a wild 3 days. I would’ve loved to be in the draft room to see the back and forth. The decision making. The arguing for and against a player. What went into determining whether to trade up or trust the board that the player would fall to you. I wasn’t there but I was fake plugged in so I knew what the final thought process was. Let’s recap it.

Thursday pre-draft

Up until this point, Utah’s Garrett Bolles was going to be the Chargers 7th overall pick. Then, a change of heart happened. Apparently, him getting kicked out of five schools and whatever happened behind the scenes led to a change of heart. Bolles goes from being a lock to off the board completely. Now, there are three scenarios. Stay home and draft Stanford’s athletic defensive lineman, Solomon Thomas. Stay home and draft Clemson’s big body receiver, Mike Williams. Or trade back and draft Western Kentucky’s stud offensive lineman Forrest Lamp.

On the clock at 7

Thomas was a long shot. Guys that can move like him don’t last in the draft. That’s exactly what happened. He was gone by pick 3. So it's staying home at 7 or trade back. I was told there was a deal in place with the Browns to trade back. They had actually spoken with multiple teams, including one in the 20’s(I’m assuming the Broncos, who eventually took Bolles), about trading back. But the Browns were most realistic. If they traded back, the plan was to draft Lamp in the 1st, a receiver or safety in the 2nd, and Indiana’s right guard Dan Feeney with the 2nd pick in the 2nd round.

I thought it was fascinating how Bolles went from a lock to a complete afterthought in a matter of hours. But that’s how the draft works. Nothing is ever set in stone. Just paying Russell Okung made this decision a little easier as well. The trade with the Browns was tempting, but not enough to pass up on a play-making receiver like Williams. The team struggled with making tough, contested catches and winning 50/50 balls. Star receiver Keenan Allen playing 9 games in the last 2 years also made this easier. It keeps Tyrell Williams and Travis Benjamin in positions where they don’t have to be “the guy.” If Allen is healthy, that’s icing on the cake. Looking at past few drafts offensive lineman in the 1st rounds haven’t exactly panned out. Getting a big receiver who can run was too good to pass up on for the team.

Friday pre-pick

The team knew that they wanted to protect Philip Rivers and create holes for Melvin Gordon.

Per NFLGSIS game info, the above info isn’t pretty. The Chargers were good at running the ball up the middle. That’s it. A change needed to be made. Specifically, the left side. Okung would help that but in two years Orlando Franklin just hasn’t been getting the job done. The team coveted Lamp in the worst way. They had spoken to each of the five teams in front of them in the 2nd about trading up. Rumors were swirling that the Vikings had also been interested in acquiring Lamp.

I had asked about some other targets. Malik McDowell was not an option. He was off the board in the “C” category, due to character issues. Cam Robinson simply wasn’t high on their board. Budda Baker was a target, but not at the top of their list. Going into the second round the list was Lamp, Feeney, Marcus Maye, Quincy Wilson, and Jordan Willis.

On the Clock: Friday

The temptation to trade up for Lamp was growing and growing. Green Bay takes a corner. Seattle takes McDowell.

The rumors were becoming real as a Vikings reporter tweeted this. But no trade happened. Arizona took Baker and the Bills took a receiver. Telesco’s patience pays off in a big way. Not sacrificing a potential depth pick and trusting your board. The Chargers get a player who they were willing to take in the teens at pick 38. A player that I had rated 5th overall on my big board. An incredible steal and instant upgrade for the team.

Leading up to the 3rd round pick

I was told before the draft started “don’t be surprised if they double down on offensive line.” I was shocked, even though I shouldn’t have been, considering some of the younger guys on the roster. I was receiving info as they continued to rearrange their board. Taylor Moton was the top target. But he was selected at the bottom of 2. The names leading up to the pick to keep an eye on were Jordan Willis, an edge rusher, Davis Webb, a quarterback, Feeney, Desmond King, a slot corner, and Jordan Morgan, a guard.

On the clock: 3rd round

I would’ve been furious at the pick of Webb, honestly. I was praying another team would select him. It’s a waste of what I still would call a premier pick because at this point in the draft you can still get a starter. Loved the idea of Willis and Feeney. The team chooses to invest in offensive line for the 2nd pick in a row and it’s a good one. I thought Feeney was the 44th best player in the draft so to get him at 71 is ridiculous value.

Duke is an THE expert when it comes to offensive line and that’s well said. The best thing about Lamp and Feeney is they both fit with exactly what the Chargers want to do on offense, unlike last year's starting guards. Back to back home runs by the Chargers and that was the sentiment inside the draft room as well. “BOOM. Dream Draft!”

Both these picks made it obvious there was a changing of the guard, pun intended, for the team. Matt Slauson and Feeney will duke it out on the right side. It’s Lamp’s job to lose on the left. While Max Tuerk will get every opportunity to win the center position.

Day 3: Trade?

The team had been trying to deal Franklin. The team that came up was the Jets. They were working hard to get this done before they selected their 4th round pick. My ears perk up when I heard this as I’m well aware that defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson is on the block as well. Richardson is a tremendous talent and would be quite the upgrade over Corey Liuget. When I inquired if it was Richardson I was told that the team is turned off by the slightest of character concerns. So that wasn’t an option. Safety Calvin Pryor was the target. Pryor struggled last year with the Jets. He was actually one of the worst strong safeties in the league. Why you pull the trigger is you’re getting out of Franklin’s contract next year and don’t have to worry about Pryor as you don’t need to exercise his final year. It’s like they do in basketball, essentially, with aspiring contracts. It’s brilliant. If the trade didn’t happen, they were taking Rayshawn Jenkins out of Miami.

The deal didn’t happen and the team selected the hard hitting athletic safety out of Miami. But why not King? King was one of their top targets in the 3rd, surely he’d be a lock to open the 4th? This was a Gus Bradley pick. Valuing that box safety enforcer role over a slot corner. I get it. I’ll be interested to see if Jenkins carves out a role for himself. Bradley mentioned he’d be in the “Kam Chancellor” role.

If you’re wondering, the trade isn’t dead. There’s just no rush now that picks aren’t involved. We’ll see if anything comes of it.

5th round rolls around and there’s King, waiting to fall into their lap. A player that I had ranked 100 they get at 151. A player they were willing to take at 71 they get 80 picks later. That is incredible patience. If King had any sort of “juice”, he’d have gone much earlier. When I did my corner rankings I had King in the top 5 in off ball corners, slot corners, and ball skills. He’s also the best tackling corner in the draft. He loves to mix it up.

King should be able to use his patience and ball skills in the slot.

He is not in the same stratosphere as a player, compared to the other players competing for that Nickel spot with him. He also has elite change of direction, which shows up when he’s returning punts and kicks.

I wouldn’t mind seeing him get some returns as a rookie.

But this draft is all about the decision makers. They knocked it out of the park. Stayed true to their board. Every GM every says “we got the guys we wanted” but being somewhat plugged in I can attest that this was really the case. The Chargers really got who they wanted through the 5th round. That is incredible. Kudos, Tom.