The LA Chargers head into the 2021 NFL Draft with several roster needs and there is a good portion of the fanbase that is optimistic in Tom Telesco. While Telesco also has his doubters, he has secured several big-name players in previous NFL drafts.
Justin Herbert, Joey Bosa, Keenan Allen, Derwin James, Mike Williams, Kenneth Murray. All players that Telesco drafted and are now pillars of the franchise. It is easy to look at that list and conclude, even if he does not hit on many mid-round picks, that Telesco can at least pick elite talent.
But in reality, Telesco’s draft resume is extremely overrated. Yes, those selections were good, but 99% of NFL general managers and most fans at home would have made the exact same selections. The lack of quality picks in the later rounds is more indicative of his drafting ability.
We should not be judging Tom Telesco on his best picks while with the LA Chargers.
It might seem unfair, but again, these selections were not hard to make. Out of all of those names listed there are only two that I give Telesco credit for: Keenan Allen (drafted in the third round) and Kenneth Murray (traded up for).
And if we are being honest, and this is coming from a huge Kenneth Murray fan, there is no guarantee that Murray is as good as we think he can be. That is still up in the air.
The rest of the first-round picks are not as good as you think. Let’s quickly break down every single first-round pick Telesco has made, besides Murray, who he gets credit for.
2013: D.J. Fluker
Tom Telesco reached for Fluker, who many had going in the late first, early second round, only to convert him to an interior offensive lineman. While Fluker was good if you are going to pick an interior offensive lineman that early in the draft then it has to be someone who anchors the offensive line for years.
Fluker was not that and there were three offensive linemen taken later in the first round that all had better careers (Justin Pugh, Kyle Long, Travis Frederick).
2014: Jason Verrett
Yes, Jason Verrett was so insanely talented but he had injury concerns coming into the league and those concerns reared their ugly head in the NFL. Verrett put together just one full season with the Chargers, and while it was good, I cannot give credit to Telesco for taking an injury-prone prospect and then only getting one season out of him.
It would be one thing if he did not have injuries in college.
2015: Melvin Gordon
The Chargers traded up for Melvin Gordon!!!
I am not one of those fans that now hates Melvin Gordon for what he did. I think players deserve more power and while it hurt the team and hurt him, he did what he thought was best.
Regardless, the team traded up for a running back in the first round. Gordon had some really good years for the Chargers but nothing that was worth moving even more draft capital for. Running backs have a short shelf life in the NFL. That is why they should never be taken in round one, in my opinion.
2016: Joey Bosa
There is not a single negative thing I can say about Joey Bosa, but I can still dissect the pick. The LA Chargers had the third overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft and got a Pro Bowl talent! That should not be a great thing, that should be expected when you built a team so bad that it had a top-three selection.
This was not a tough decision for Telesco. The only mistake he really could have made was taking DeForest Buckner, who is still a solid football player. If it was not Bosa, it would have been Jalen Ramsey or Ronnie Staley. Both of which are All-Pro players.
2017: Mike Williams
I know there are some Mike Williams fans out there and I like him as a player, but this is terrible value. If you are taking a wide receiver in 2017 with a top 10 pick in the draft then that wide receiver better be a franchise-altering wide receiver.
There is way too much talent at the position to be spending this high of draft capital on a receiver for them to be a WR2 with one Pro Bowl season under their belt.
I love Williams as a player, don’t get me wrong, but the LA Chargers took a receiver with (check notes) injury concerns who was hurt his rookie season and is not the generational receiver that a team should be getting with the seventh overall pick.
2018: Derwin James
Also, I love Derwin James but he fell this far in the draft because of injury concerns and what do you know? He has played one full season in three years. Again, this was an easy choice. This was a top-eight talent that was available at 17.
This was not a hard decision.
2019: Jerry Tillery
The first time that Tom Telesco did not have a pick in the top 20 and it is a terrible one! What a surprise! Granted, the 2019 draft class as a whole has bene pretty awful thus far, but it is no surprise that the first time he was forced to pick outside of the elite prospects that it hasn’t worked out as expected.
2020: Justin Herbert
I love Justin Herbert. I do. But Tom Telesco does not deserve the credit you think he does for this pick. The LA Chargers were picking quarterback no matter what with the sixth overall pick. If the Miami Dolphins picked Herbert then the Chargers would have picked Tua Tagovailoa. If both Herbert and Tua were picked they probably would have picked Jordan Love.
This was not the team falling in love with Justin Herbert and picking him over Tua. If they did that then Telesco would get ample credit. This was a case of Telesco picking whoever Miami didn’t pick and he is lucky it was Herbert, as it just about saved his job.
Mix all of that in with the fact that Tom Telesco has had one breakout pick in rounds 5-7 in eight drafts (Desmond King, who was a one-year breakout) and it is clear that his drafting resume is quite poor.
Breakout players are hard to find that late in the draft, but when you only find one in eight years and there are hardly any other starting-caliber players then it is clear that perhaps the draft resume is poorer than we thought.