If Chargers don’t pick quarterback in NFL draft, tackle or dominant defender likely
They are, by the very definition of the phrase, the ultimate “Charger insiders.”
Tom Telesco’s wife, Larah, and the couple’s three kids — daughter Elena and sons Thomas and Nicholas — have shared the same space during his most recent preparation for the 2020 NFL draft.
COVID-19 pandemic restrictions have forced Telesco — as with every other general manager in the league — to work at home over the past several weeks.
Yet, with the draft set to begin at 5 p.m. PDT Thursday, Telesco insisted that not even those closest to him — literally, in these days of social distancing — know what he’s scheming.
“They’ve been in here for all the coaches’ meetings, all the scouts’ meetings, everything,” Telesco said on a video conference call with reporters. “I don’t think they know what’s going on. They better not.”
In a league famous for coveting privacy, the man running the Chargers is a genuine All-Pro in terms of keeping his intentions hidden. Telesco acknowledged he never shares draft plans with anyone in his family.
The 2020 NFL draft is on Thursday, and NFL team beat writers have made their first-round picks in The Times’ annual reporters mock draft.
And that includes this year while working from the dining room table of his Newport Beach home.
“We don’t do our business in public,” Telesco said. “I guess, as of right now, I don’t do in private, either.”
The Chargers have the No. 6 overall pick and a selection early in each of the subsequent six rounds.
The Chargers need a quarterback, and Tua Tagovailoa could be there when they pick at No. 6 in the NFL draft, but they have other needs that could be addressed.
There’s also a chance the Chargers could trade up or down from No. 6 to better position themselves for what Telesco has in mind. He made no trades during the draft last year.
The general uncertainty of their situation is only intensified because sitting immediately in front of the Chargers, at No. 5, is Miami, which has been rumored to be interested in pretty much every possibility short of re-signing Dan Marino.
The Dolphins once were believed to be all-in on Tagovailoa ... before they were said to be more enamored with Herbert ... before the news Wednesday that they were trying to trade up to No. 3 to secure an offensive tackle.
Such misdirection is standard this time of year in the NFL, play-action fakes not something limited to the field.
“A huge part of the draft,” Telesco said, “is trying to determine and predict where players might go and how another team might see them.”
In the case of Tagovailoa, a recent history of injury has clouded the evaluation. There even have been reports of teams medically flunking the former Alabama standout who seriously injured his hip.
As with every franchise, the Chargers employ scouts whose jobs include charting the offseason roster additions and subtractions of every other team. The idea is to best forecast, based on needs, what will happen next.
“It’s called draft management,” Telesco said. “We’re trying to put players in positions where we can get them in the right spots. That includes having to trade up or having to trade back. It’s a big part of the process.”
After Joe Burrow at No. 1 to the Bengals, Sam Farmer’s NFL mock draft reveals where quarterbacks Tua Tagovailoa, Justin Herbert and Jordan Love should be selected.
Along with quarterback, the Chargers’ most obvious needs include offensive tackle, wide receiver, linebacker, defensive line and running back.
They already have used a trade and free agency to bolster an offensive front that struggled in 2019. The Chargers also believe center Mike Pouncey will be able to return from the neck injury that limited him to five starts last season.
“All indications look very good right now,” Telesco said. “I know he’s excited to play.”
The offensive tackle draft class is particularly strong at the top this year and the wide receiver group is said to be historically deep, both factors in the Chargers’ favor.
What they mostly lack on the outside is a speedy receiver to fill a hole that comes after Keenan Allen and Mike Williams, both of whom topped 1,000 yards last season.
“We’re always looking for speed everywhere,” Telesco said. “We’re an athletic, speed-based team. If that’s not the No. 1 criteria with almost every player we take, it’s pretty high. At every position, speed and athletic ability are paramount for us.”
So too is the ability to adjust with little notice, Telesco and his staff charged this week with further constructing the team’s 2020 roster with a draft that, especially early on, could be frenzied.
The serious preparation for every possibility began a few weeks ago and, according to Telesco, has since concluded.
“It won’t go till Thursday,” he promised. “At a certain point, you just get burned out of thinking about it too much. You just gotta let it rip and draft.”
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