The life of a NFL general manager is one that few could truly handle. Not only do they have to look at the team’s budget, but they also must scout players, look at expiring contracts, build for the present and also prepare for the future.
However, the biggest knock most GM’s get is on their draft selections. That’s where most of the fanbases complain about the way a team is run. While everyone hopes their first-round draft pick is a slam dunk, not every superstar college player is going to live up to his draft hype.
According to a study, 48% of players in the NFL are first round draft picks. Rightfully so as their contributions at the collegiate level have made them more NFL ready. Still, 52% of players in the league were drafted after Commissioner Roger Goodell relinquished his rights to call a player’s name and welcome them to the NFL family.
It’s the day two and three selections that genuinely show a GM’s worth. As for Los Angeles Chargers general manager Tom Telesco, he can smile and sit back knowing that a former fifth-round pick has been nothing short perfect in his second season with the Bolts.
Once again, cornerback Desmond King has outplayed his fifth-round draft status during the team’s 25-17 victory over the Seattle Seahawks. The former Iowa cornerback was considered in college as one of the better pure cover cornerbacks in college and had elite level tracking skills in the air. Collecting 14 career interceptions, including eight in one season, the Jim Thorpe award winner was destined to make an impact in the NFL right away.
But his 5-10 frame was considered too small from the NFL as an outside cornerback, dropping his stock to a second-round grade. His slower 40-yard time moved him down to a third-round pickup. His 11 pass interference calls made his worth fall to day 3. All and all, no matter how talented King was in college, many considered him to be limited at the next level.
150. A number that will stick with King forever.
150 names were called before Telesco finally picked up the phone and welcomed King to the Chargers family. 150 players were given an opportunity to make their NFL dreams a reality before King’s production was finally noticed. 150 players were destined to make more money off their rookie contract than a player who was a standout for the Hawkeye defense.
A team’s approach the midway point of their season, how many are probably regretting passing on King through those 150 player’s second season?
On Sunday against Seattle, King once again showed his worth as the primary slot cornerback for the Bolts defense. Collecting three total tackles along with one pass breakup, the former Hawkeye defender excelled against Seattle’s receiving corp in man coverage.
Then came the fourth quarter when King put the Chargers on his back to silence Seattle’s offense, along with the crowd. In a cover 3 look, King shifted over the flats and cut off a pass intended for wide receiver David Moore from Russell Wilson. From there, it was a foot race to the end zone against the former Big-10 quarterback.
King won the 42-yard dash, sealing the victory for the Bolts and giving the AFC something to cheer about. The Chargers victory would mark the first time an AFC team had won at Century Link Field since 2011.
For the season, King has now collected 27 total tackles, six pass deflections and three interceptions. His 75 yards on interceptions return rank 7th among all active defenders.
While King is likely limited to the slot, the cornerback is having a Pro Bowl caliber season out at Stub Hub Stadium. Leading his team in interceptions, King has been consistent in man zone coverage and helped eliminate throws across the middle of the field.
According to Pro Football Focus, King has been one of the best slot cornerbacks in the league this season against the run. Collecting 13 stops against the run, King ranks third among all graded slot cornerbacks. He currently holds a grade of 92.1 on defensive metrics.
With the NFL turning into a pass-happy league, slot cornerbacks are becoming a higher commodity during NFL draft season. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers saw that problem and drafted North Carolina’s M.J. Stewart to play that role with the 53rd pick in April’s draft.
Thanks to players like King and his early success, height-challenged players will no longer fall to day 3 and be considered depth pieces. While they may be limited to their role in a defensive scheme, their contributions could help make or break a team when games come down to the wire.
It’s easy to look at Telesco’s track record and criticize his draft skills. With the likes of D.J. Fluker and the oft-injured Jason Verrett hanging over his head, many would consider Telesco a below average GM. But in recent year’s, it seems he could be trending upward thanks to his mid-round picks.
With the likes of Denzel Perryman, Keenan Allen and Dan Feeney, Telesco has shown the ability to draft solid contributors to the Bolts franchise now and moving forward. King, however, might be the crowning jewel of Telesco’s six-year career in Los Angeles.
In a way, Chargers fans might need to thank Telesco for finding one of the top secondary players in the league this season. Well, him and 31 other scouting departments.