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Chargers Mock Draft: Predicting Telesco’s first trade-down

With so many depth needs to fill, Tom Telesco finally trades back to bolster his roster.

NFL: Combine Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

We’re mere hours away from the NFL Draft, an although I already submitted my Predictive Mock Draft on our BFTB Showdown Page, I wanted to give a final comprehensive look at the trade Tom Telesco is going to make tonight (hot take alert!) and how it shakes things up.

We’ve discussed the depth concerns and roster holes in the Chargers roster ad nauseum, so we’ll step back from that for just a moment.

Instead, let’s venture over to Indianapolis, a team that has boasted one of the strongest rosters for years, but just couldn’t quite find the quarterback to push them over the edge. Since Luck’s surprise retirement, they have plugged in Jacoby Brissett, El Capitan Philip Rivers, Carson Wentz, and Matt Ryan as their starters for only one season each.

The wheels finally came off the bus last year. Injuries and underachievement, paired with a declining Matt Ryan and a midseason head coach fire, has delivered the Colts the fourth overall pick in the draft. They finally are in a position where they can usher in a new era of Colts football by drafting their quarterback of the future.

Regardless of who that selection might be, Charger fans know that the best friend of a young quarterback is a reliable, pass-catching tight end. The Colts currently feature a tight end room that has room for improvement; although Mo Alie-Cox and Jelani Woods have had standout moments, neither bring much impact with their run blocking and haven’t broken out as true TE1 options. They seem best suited as great role-playing threats.

With Tom’s hesitancy in trading, it makes sense he would trade with organizations or general managers he has had a relationship and level of trust with. Having executed two trades last year, the Bears seem like a great option, and possess the cache of day two and three picks that grants a team flexibility to trade up. However, the Colts stand to benefit the most by getting their pick of the tight end litter, and wouldn’t require Tom to fall into the back-half of the second round before making a selection. Even though Chris Ballard and Tom Telesco weren’t in Indianapolis together, I believe there is enough familiarity for Tom in that building to get this deal done.

Day One

Telesco and Ballard share some stories of their experiences at Lucas Oil Stadium, and casually wrap up the conversation with an exchange of goods: pick 21 for picks 35, 79, and 138. On paper, Ballard looks like a hero to the people, exchanging 782 points of Jimmy Johnson capital for 800. Tom grimaces, clearly out of his comfort zone, but the deal is done and he starts working on backfilling their depth.

Day Two

A little bit of patience pays off, as Tom enters day two armed with not two, but four selections.

Pick 35: Jack Campbell, LB, Iowa

It’s a bit of a shocker pick, as the team still has hope that Kenneth Murray can take another step forward as a starter in Staley’s defense. However, they have to make a decision on his fifth year option soon, and Eric Kendricks isn’t a lock to continue playing at a high level for more than a season or two. Jack Campbell can immediately push Kenneth for his starting role in year one, but it’s also important to note that only one linebacker thas been drafted and resigned to a second contract by Tom Telesco: Denzel Perryman. To this point, there have been far more productive and talented linebackers than Murray that have been shown the door, only to sign elsewhere on very affordable contracts. Getting an upgrade or future replacement has to be on his shopping list.

Pick 54: Zach Harrison, EDGE, Ohio State

With his second pick of the day, Tom does a Telesco staple, and reaches for a player they deem “their guy.” Zach Harrison is commonly mocked to go in the third round, but pundits consistently underestimate how much general managers love an EDGE with all the measurables. Last year, we saw it with Alex Wright, a prospect with a great frame, plenty of production, but was from such a small school that it was nearly impossible to find tape on him. Pundits commonly had him mocked in the 5th or 6th round, and I had him going as high as the fourth, but the Browns swooped in and grabbed him with pick 78.

Zach Harrison has all the physical traits Staley needs out of an edge, he’s just a little raw. After waiting years for Rumph II to gain enough strength to be effective on the edge, Telesco reaches down the board board a bit and plucks a player that Khalil Mack can polish into a Pro Bowler.

Pick 79: Darnell Washington, TE, Georgia

Originally I had Sam LaPorta here, and I honestly would prefer Sam over Darnell. I think Sam surprises folks and goes earlier than expected because of his receiving prowess, and Darnell Washington slips into the third because most of he’s not the most polished receiver of the tight end class. He fills in perfectly as Staley’s Georgia pick-of-the-year, and Tom’s developmental third round prospect that boasts elite traits, with areas that need refinement to truly excel at the next level.

From the fan perspective, the reach of Harrison is balanced by the value selection of Washington.

Pick 85: Jonathan Mingo, WR, Ole Miss

Telesco opts not to give up his prototypical wide receiver body in pursuit of speed, and instead gets the best of both worlds. Mingo provides deep threat speed, and incredible athletic abilities paired with a strong build that make him very difficult to take down. Mingo serves as a solid field stretcher and playmaker in year one, yet should Allen or Williams get hurt, he also is a complete enough player to keep the offense churning.

Day Three

Telesco’s trade on day one has armed him with a total of five day three selections.

Pick 125: Jammie Robinson, S, Florida State

Tom has picked a safety and a cornerback from Florida State, and both have had success and remain on the roster today. Although his speed doesn’t command the attention JT Woods did this time last year, Staley’s intrigue over Mark Webb shows he doesn’t solely look for burners in his defensive backfield.

In Robinson, Staley gets another versatile chess piece, and his school affiliation get Asante and Derwin pumped! He’s not going to play single-high for this defense, but he can cover half of a deep zone adequately enough to justify selecting him for his ability underneath. A very willing tackler that is strong for his size, Robinson would fill into Bryce Callahan’s role nicely, or could provide depth behind him should Callahan be brought back. With Alohi Gilman in the last year of his contract, Robinson would be a great compliment to JT Woods and Derwin James should the team not bring Gilman back in 2024.

Pick 138: Charlie Jones, WR, Purdue

If the Chargers are going to double-dip at receiver, it’s got to be someone that fills DeAndre Carter’s role. As the Big Ten Return Specialist of the Year, Jones can plug into special teams immediately. He also boasts solid route running ability, wiggle after the catch, and reliable hands. While he likely doesn’t have the size to establish himself as a true WR1 or WR2, you’ll see him fill in as a very productive role player for years to come.

Pick 156: Jalen Redmond, DL, Oklahoma

Staley needs some insurance for his defensive front that suffered from major injuries last season. Redmond is a sleeper pick for many fans, as his above-average athleticism for his size gives him a decent ceiling for his draft position.

His pass rush win rate of 9.7% in 2022 was well above average, and run-stop rate of 8.4% was borderline elite, earning him a run defense grade of 74.8. He might not break into the starting lineup of a healthy roster in his rookie contract, but he’d provide very adequate depth at a position with plenty of attrition.

Pick 200: Ryan Hayes, OT, Michigan

Tom selects offensive line depth to add some competition at the swing-tackle position. Ryan Hayes improved upon his pass-blocking efficiency in 2022, earning a win-rate of 96.92% compared to his win-rate of 93.68% in 2021. Most importantly, Telesco is picking a player that played in two college playoffs in his two years as a starter. This late in the draft, that kind of experience and developmental growth is worth rolling the dice on.

Pick 239: Jon Gaines, IOL, UCLA

As with his last pick, Tom selects a player to shore up offensive line depth. Having started across all interior positions, Gaines is a great value this late to compete with Will Clapp.

That wraps up my final mock of the season Bolts From The Blue! Here’s to an AWESOME draft weekend!