The phrase “build through the draft” is considered key to long-term success in professional sports. However, recent history shows few have been able to implement the expression with as much success as Los Angeles Chargers’ General Manager Tom Telesco.
Back in 2013 the Chargers made Telesco the youngest general manager in team history, but he returned the favor by “missing” on two of his first three selections in the 2013 NFL draft.
Recently released offensive guard D.J. Fluker came out of Alabama looking like the next leader of the offensive line, and second-round linebacker Manti Te’o was set to dominate the way he did at Notre Dame.
None of that happened.
Both Fluker and Te’o signed with NFC teams this offseason, but it’s Keenan Allen, the third-round wide receiver, who is the shiny star from the 2013 mishap.
Allen caught 71 passes for 1,046 yards and eight touchdowns his rookie year after former Charger Malcom Floyd went down with injury.
In 2015, Allen had 67 catches in eight games before going down for health reasons. If it weren’t for an unfortunate landing in the end zone of a Baltimore Ravens game, he might’ve broken the NFL record of 143 receptions in a season.
After a year under his belt, Telesco went into the 2014 NFL draft coming off a Chargers’ playoff appearance. A loss to Peyton Manning and the Broncos spurred Telesco to draft a franchise cornerstone in cornerback Jason Verrett.
In his 24 games played, Verrett has taken over the role as the No. 1 cornerback on the roster. When healthy, he makes a name for himself as a top-10 corner in the league.
The 2014 draft brought more than a star-studded defensive back, it also brought a versatile outside linebacker—Jeremiah Attaochu.
Although he was drafted to be the guy opposite of Melvin Ingram, Attaochu has been a reliable fill-in. He has accumulated 10 sacks in 34 games and been the team’s most disruptive special teams player.
Now it gets fun.
With the departure of Ryan Mathews, fans everywhere were looking for the next great running back.
Telesco gave the people and the franchise exactly what they wanted. Melvin Gordon was selected 15th overall by the Chargers.
Gordon’s rookie season was lackluster at best. However, he returned this past season putting his true talent on display.
He earned a trip to the Pro Bowl and racked up 997 yards in 13 games. Gordon’s ability to speed past linebackers or run through them is a show Chargers’ fans will enjoy for years to come.
Telesco hit another home run with second-round pick, linebacker Denzel Perryman.
A projected first-round pick fell in the Chargers’ lap. All he’s done for them is post back-to-back 70-plus tackle seasons.
The intensity he displays on the field is reminiscent of former fan-favorite Shawne Merriman.
Not to mention Telesco snatched linebacker and stud special teamer Kyle Emmanuel in the fifth round.
Try and hold back the tears. The 2016 draft was the final time the San Diego Chargers would be on the clock.
The going away party birthed the defensive rookie of the year, and the heir-apparent to tight end Antonio Gates–Hunter Henry.
Joey Bosa missed the majority of the offseason and the first four games because of a contract conflict. Despite missing a sizable chunk of his rookie year, Bosa’s transition to the NFL seemed effortless.
He had the second-best pass rush productivity of any rookie since 2006, according to Pro Football Focus. Only Aldon Smith had a better rookie year.
On the other side of the ball, Henry was tied for the most touchdown receptions (8) in 2016 by a tight end. After a promising rookie season, he looks to be the future at the position for the Chargers.
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Most recently, Telesco has been praised for his supposed home-run hits in the 2017 draft.
In the first round, he selected wide receiver Mike Williams, who has the size and vertical jump reminiscent of former Chargers wideout Vincent Jackson.
Williams is expected to be the final piece of the Chargers’ plethora of talented pass catchers.
Although the Williams pick excited the majority of fans, the football junkies are pleased with Telesco’s second and third-round selections of offensive linemen Forrest Lamp and Dan Feeney.
Both are reportedly expected to fight for starting roles along an offensive line that lacked the tools to give the Bolts a spark in 2016.
Not to mention Lamp and Feeney were arguably the best two interior linemen in the draft.
With the 2017 picks yet to play in a game, it’s unclear what their long-term impact will be with the franchise. However, if they are able to capture starting roles alongside other team cornerstones like Bosa and Gordon, what is keeping this team from sneaking into the playoffs?
Telesco has built this team around quarterback Philip Rivers. He has provided a running back, multiple pass catchers and a versatile defensive unit.
The 2017 season may not only signal a bounce-back year for the Bolts, but it could also open the eyes of NFL fans to the young powerhouse in Los Angeles not named the Rams.