Poor drafting of offensive linemen in recent years may hold the Los Angeles Chargers back in 2019.
According to the site Whole Nine Sports and their draft history for Tom Telesco during his tenure as general manager of the Chargers, the most drafted position for the Bolts has been offensive lineman, with eight picks since 2013.
Those offensive linemen are DJ Fluker (1st rounder), Chris Watt (3rd rounder), Max Tuerk (3rd rounder), Donavon Clark (7th rounder), Forrest Lamp (2nd rounder), Dan Feeney (3rd rounder), Sam Tevi (6th rounder), and Scott Quessenberry (5th rounder).
Of those eight players, three are no longer in the NFL (to add insult to injury, two of those three players – Watt and Tuerk – were third-round picks). Lamp, Feeney, and Tevi should be judged by their performances this upcoming season, to give them enough time for growth and development as it’s tough to judge a player’s true potential short of three NFL seasons.
It’s troubling that Telesco has whiffed on half of the offensive linemen he has drafted because they were either not good enough to continue NFL employment or they weren’t good enough to justify an extension (Fluker).
The NFL draft and scouting college football players is an inexact science and it can be difficult to hit on all or even most of a team’s draft picks, but that’s what makes Telesco’s relative missteps drafting offensive linemen so troubling.
Telesco hits – routinely – on undrafted free agents and fifth round-or-later draft picks that become useful contributors. It’s a testament to his scouting department, talent evaluators, and coaches that have helped to create and develop this current, talented Chargers team.
But missing on those offensive linemen, especially those third rounders in 2014 (Watt) and 2016 (Tuerk), has adversely affected the offensive linemen depth in 2019. Had those two turned into solid backups (a reasonable expectation given how early they were drafted), losing Russell Okung last week and having to rely on the serviceable Michael Schofield, the curious case of Lamp, and the regressed form of Feeney, would be easier to stomach.
But the Chargers are left thin all along the line with so many unknowns if Okung’s injury keeps him off the field into the season. Tevi is not the answer at left tackle, although he has earned at least a shot at the starting job at right tackle. Third-round pick Trey Pipkins does not appear ready to start this season and with Lamp’s potential such an unknown, the Chargers are in a precarious position.
There are serviceable free agents still waiting for phone calls, but they remain unsigned in June for a reason. If Telesco cannot luck into a player that is a training camp cut with NFL starting experience and at least league-average serviceability, the Chargers will be rolling the dice on a thin offensive line during their shrinking championship window.