By Cameron Buford, whatsgoodinsports.com

On the anniversary of the Los Angeles Chargers choosing their young, record-breaking quarterback last year, GM Tom Telesco holds a zoom session with the media to discuss the upcoming NFL Draft. Telesco spoke to us about everything from the oddity of their draft preparation for this year’s draft, including some insights to their thought process for their newly constructed coaching staff. 

I was eager to know, from the General Manager of the Chargers for the past multiple years, how comfortable were they with the #13 pick in this draft. If they were interested in moving up or down in this draft. Understanding this is a time when it’s tough for them to reveal their actual plans, for fear of the competition making moves to steal their players, I was unsure how honest he could or would be with us. 

Telesco would respond by saying, “We’re comfortable at 13 if we pick there. It’s like every other draft. You prepare to move up, prepare to move back, and prepare to execute the pick at 13 — nothing different there. We’re very comfortable at 13. If we were in the 20s or 30s, that’s where it gets a little more difficult because, typically, nobody has that many players rated as first-round picks. We’re picking 13, so we feel pretty good right there.” 

Though they may be comfortable at 13, the way Telesco responded was evidence that he is not completely comfortable providing much insight on their plans for the upcoming draft. He would later go to elaborate on his philosophy on trading down in the draft order, relative to a perception that teams would instead prefer to trade up in the draft order. 

“I guess we like to ‘zig’ while others ‘zag.’ Generally, yeah, I’d rather go down than up. I think you have to be careful trading up. Especially nowadays, you have to guard about being over-confident that you can guarantee the player’s success that you’re trading up to get… I’d be careful trading up. We’ve done it. We haven’t done it a lot, but we’ve done it in certain cases. I would rather go down to get more picks.” Like it’s been said, “The more at-bats you have, the better the chance of getting a hit. I would prefer to go down than up. Sometimes it works out, and 

sometimes it doesn’t. I also know that you need to be flexible… you have to be careful. I would prefer to go down than up. Each draft is a little bit different.” 

As they revamp their offensive line from it widely expected that they would draft an Offensive Tackle, as it appears they have an opening at the Left Tackle position currently. Telesco responded by saying, “I guess if you define that as having a starting tackle that has a number of years of experience starting in this league, then yeah, maybe. But, we’re very bullish on [T] Trey Pipkins [III]. I was impressed by how he played late in the year. He doesn’t fit that category of having multiple years of starting at that position. As we sit here today, yeah, we don’t have a multi-year guy at that position that has been a starter. So, that would be correct.” 

As everything in the world has been impacted by COVID19, so has the NFL offseason and the evaluation process of draft prospects. For the first time in decades, there was no NFL Combine requiring, forcing many of the draft prospects to have their Pro Days. These Pro Days were meant to showcase their talents for prospective teams to do their evaluation. 

“The con has been the medical process, which came up earlier. That’s been the negative because that’s a huge part of the draft process. We’ve had to really do it largely a different way than usual. That’s been a con. We’ve been working through it. We’ll get better at it. We have everything that we normally would have. That’s the pro. We got it all done. We would prefer to have everybody at one location, especially for all of the timed drills, doing it all in one atmosphere and on one surface. The biggest thing for us is just working through the medical portion of it. It’s a huge puzzle to try to put together. It’s hard to do even when you do it in Indianapolis, but to do it the way that we did it this year, where it was kind of split up, makes it a little bit more difficult. Another con was that I couldn’t go back to Indianapolis. I spent 15 years there, so it was always fun going back there. That’s about it.” 

The COVID19 outbreak caused some players to opt out of playing football last season. I was curious to hear how that would impact their ranking with teams and GMs and ultimately their draft status. So I asked Tom about his thoughts on these prospects who opted out and what he may be looking to hear from these prospects when meeting with them, to restore their confidence in them. 

Tom responded by saying about this situation, “Each kid that sat out; they all have a different story. That’s a personal decision. I’m not going to hold a personal decision against a player. Now, if we thought a player just didn’t like to play football and he opted out, that is one thing. That is going to be an issue. Other than that, I just don’t think I’m the one who should be judging if I think your reason was valid or not. I just don’t believe that. We do a lot of background work on these players. The area scouts do a tremendous job with that. It’s a big part of the job, trying to get to know the players as a person. So, we do that. I just don’t think we’re in a position to be judging whether you should opt-out or should opt-in. That’s not our position. Can you play football? Do you love to play the game? Do we think you fit what we do here, both on the field and off the field? If the answers are all yes, then we will go with that.” 

Lastly, knowing there was no advantage for him to do so and I wanted to see if I could get him the Chargers General Manager Tom Telesco to tell us who the club is targeting with their No. 13-overall selection. Telesco made it clear that “We’re drafting players, not positions. That’s it. Players, not positions.” 

After Free Agency the NFL Draft is the next best way for an NFL Team to improve their team. The NFL Draft, happening this weekend April 29th – May 2nd, will have NFL fans across the country locked in to see who their team will draft and how they improve their teams for the upcoming season. Whether you’re a Chargers or Rams fan, who would you like to see your team draft? Let us know, by reaching out to me on Twitter @whatsgoodnsport or forward any suggestions on what additional topics or angles you’d like to see discussed to info@whatsgoodinsports.com. 

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