Tom Telesco and the NFL draft

CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 30: Melvin Gordon of the Wisconsin Badgers holds up a jersey with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell after being picked
CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 30: Melvin Gordon of the Wisconsin Badgers holds up a jersey with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell after being picked /

When Tom Telesco was hired he was very emphatic about how the Los Angeles Chargers would build a winner.  It would be through the draft.

When you talk about building through the draft it really comes down to player retention and talent. If you have a high retention but no talent it won’t work for you. If you are able to grab a few talented players but whiff on the rest of your picks, you have a team with lots of holes or weaknesses.

Roughly 60 percent of NFL starters are selected in rounds 1-3.  Just about 50 percent  of Pro Bowlers are first-round picks. Second -ound picks have about a 15 percent chance of making the Pro Bowl.  Of course there are exceptions to all of theses generalizations, but you get the idea. If you are looking for talent you are most likely going to find it in the first three rounds.

So how does overall retention play into this?  With the salary cap you have a limited amount of funds to spend on player personnel. There is not enough cap room to just sign a Pro-Bowler for every position, so a lot of the roster will be filled with ‘average’ players. These are your players that will most likely be allowed to walk when their rookie contract expires. With about 40 percent of your roster being made up of players from the fourth round and on and from undrafted free agents, you need to do a good job in selecting players that can make your squad and help you be successful.

There is a direct correlation between teams who keep their draft picks and winning percentage.

So what does good retention look like?  I think from a fans’ perspective, every time we draft we think that if all seven don’t make the roster and go on  to be Pro-Bowlers, we will be disappointed.  That is an extremely high goal to set and not realistic. As a general manager, if you were able to get two long-term starters out of every draft you would be doing very well. That is not a typo, just two. Let’s future cast that a little bit. If you had two players make the starting roster from each draft, in 10 years you would have 20 starters that you drafted. That would be top of the league in that category.

What about non-starters. Top of the league in overall retention is 30 percent or higher. That is super good. It’s harder to average that number over 10 years because most teams keep the majority of their draft picks for at least two seasons before they realize who is working and who is not.

Now with those numbers in mind, we can look at what Telesco has brought us through the years and see if he has actually been able to build through the draft like he promised.


1: DJ Fluker2: Manti Teo3: Keenan Allen4: Traded to move up to select Teo5: Steve Williams6: Tourek Williams7: Brad Sorenson

From the 2013 draft the Chargers have one player left on the roster.  Albeit he is awesome.  But one player is not getting it done. The biggest gaffe in this draft was the trade up for Manti. Grade D


  1. Jason Verrett
  2.  Jeremiah Attaochu
  3. Chris Watt
  4. Traded away
  5.  Ryan Carrethers
  6.  Marion Grice
  7. Tevin Reese

Jason Verret is the last man standing from this group and there is a good chance that he will not make it past his rookie contract. Grade F-.


1. Melvin Gordon2. Denzel Perryman3. Craig Mager4. Traded away5. Kyle Emanuel6. Darius Philon7. Traded away

This is not a bad draft.  Gordon is a top-ten running back. Perryman can be a long-time starter and Pro Bowler in this league if he stays healthy.  Emanuel and Philon are solid backups.  Philon may have the talent to be more, but I think we have seen Emanuel’s ceiling. Grade A


1. Joey Bosa2. Hunter Henry3. Max Tuerk4. Joshua Perry5. Jatavis Brown6. Drew Kaser6. Derek Watt7. DonAvan Clark

This is Tom Telesco’s best draft by far. In the first two rounds you grab two long-time starters and possible future Pro-Bowlers. Right there this draft would be a solid A, but you added another long-time starter with Drew Kaser. Jatavis Brown is a solid backup linebacker.  Grade A+


1. Mike Williams2. Forrest Lamp3. Dan Feeney4. Rayshawn Jenkins5. Desmond King6. Sam Tevi7. Issac Rochell

Injuries have plagued this draft class. It looked like Lamp was destined to be a starter in the league. Mike Williams’ back injury is more worrisome. Dan Feeney has the look of a starter as does Desmond King.  A real gem in the 5th round.  I don’t think we have seen enough of Jenkins, Tevi or Rochell, but all saw playing time last year. Grade: Incomplete. (If Mike Williams and Lamp become solid starters this year, this will be an A.)

To have an excellent draft this year Telesco must avoid mistakes he has made in the past.

Player DurabilityAlmost every draft Telesco is selecting a player with medical problems. Allen, Verrett, Max Tuerk and Mike Williams.  The results have been mixed.  In the third round perhaps the gamble is warranted, but in the first round the gamble is just dumb. The Verrett pick is a good example.  Bradley Roby was on the board.  In fact, many had the Chargers taking Roby, but Telesco decided to roll the dice on an injured player that lacked NFL size.

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BPA vs. Team NeedsThis part of Telesco’s draft philosophy has cost the Chargers dearly. A perfect example of this is the Mike Williams pick. The weapons around Rivers were pretty deep – Allen, Tyrell Williams, Benjamin, Gordon, Henry and Antonio Gates. There was no need to add another player here, especially when there were huge needs at safety, linebacker and the offensive line. Even if Williams is healthy all it means is that Williams or Benjamin is sitting on the bench while he is in the lineup.  But how about if Telesco had drafted in an area of need, like Malik Hooker for example. Having Hooker instead of Boston on this team would be a huge upgrade for this team. But here we are at the 2018 draft and still looking for a safety.

Pressing too muchWe see this mainly in 2013, 2014 and 2015 where Telesco burned picks to move up to grab players. Most of these players are no longer with the team which is an added insult when you realize you spent extra picks on them. In 2015 he used two picks to move up two spots to grab Gordon. The weird thing with this move was it appeared Gordon would fall to their spot anyway. This crazy desperation is a costly loss of picks.  It is good to see that the Chargers did not see any of this in 2016 and 2017.

Too much focus on the diamond in the rough.Telesco has an obsession with finding that pick that everyone missed and he is willing to take guys way before their draft grade just because he is certain. Craig Mager and Chris Watt are two prime examples of this. This has not turned out well.  Sometimes playing it safe is the way to go.

I look forward to a great draft this weekend and I am hoping Tommy T can deliver.