With the 17th overall pick…
I’m not sure my Twitter following counts for a perfect representation of the entire Chargers fanbase, but for what it’s worth, almost half of the voters selected Derwin James as Telesco’s best draft pick thus far:
Best Tom Telesco draft pick with the #Chargers thus far? You can define what "best" means however you want.
— Tyler Schoon (@tjscooter30) January 11, 2019
If half the fans truly believe James is the best draft pick in six seasons from the front office, then it has to be one of the stories of the year. Fans love him, and for good reason:
- Team-leading 105 total tackles
- Tied for team lead with three interceptions
- Starting Pro-Bowler
- First Team All-Pro
I haven’t seen a player come into the league and dominate as a rookie at multiple positions in quite some time. Everyone knew he was a steal, and he still may have outplayed his rookie expectations. If he’s the future face of the defense, I’m on board.
Improvement on special teams
This is all thanks to punter Donnie Jones.
I’m kidding. But after a year of embarrassing special teams play, the Chargers finally found stability with only occasional awful errors. Awesome!
The biggest acquisition, to the surprise of many, was free-agent kicker Michael “Money Badger” Badgley. All he did was walk onto the team and become one of the most accurate kickers in the league, and break a certain record held by a frequent postseason choker.
With a 47-yard field goal, kicker Michael Badgley set the Chargers single-game postseason record with 5 FG made, breaking a tie with Nate Kaeding, who went 4-for-4 in the 2007 AFC Championship Game at the Patriots. pic.twitter.com/L79VFz9lgL
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 6, 2019
Badgley made 95.45 percent of his kicks, with his only regular season miss coming on one from further than 50 yards. He’s a fan favorite for sure, and he’s here to stay. So long to Younghoe Koo, Nick Novak, Travis Coons, Nick Rose, and Caleb Sturgis.
One day, the Chargers figured, “Hey you know what? Let’s give Desmond King a shot as a full-time kick and punt returner,” and lo and behold a star was born. It’s unfortunate that the most recent memory of him was his muffed punt in New England because every other time he touched the ball it was a bit of magic.
Here’s how much they improved on punt returns: In 2017, Travis Benjamin averaged 9.5 yards a return. In 2018, King averaged 13, good enough for fifth in the league this year and would have been second-best last year. His play earned him Second Team All-Pro honors.