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Chargers aim for more draft hits with the help of Snoop Dogg

Chargers aim for more draft hits with the help of Snoop Dogg

Chargers general manager Tom Telesco had a slight hesitation before embracing the benefits of having a Snoop Dogg concert near the team’s draft war room.

“Snoop is a coach, so we may have to lean on him a little bit and see who he likes in the first round,” Telesco jokingly said.

It will be a unique setting for Telesco’s 10th draft as general manager of the Chargers. For Thursday’s opening round, the Chargers will operate from their locker room at SoFi Stadium while Snoop Dogg and Colombian artist Esther Anaya entertain fans on the field for DraftFest.

Chargers star players Justin Herbert, Keenan Allen and Derwin James are scheduled to greet fans on the performance stage before learning who Telesco drafted from the nearby war room.

Telesco didn’t mind moving his draft operations for a day – the Chargers found their franchise quarterback in Herbert in the 2020 draft when COVID-19 forced every team to pick from home. Also, the Chargers are slated to pick 17th on Thursday, the same pick they had in 2018 when they landed James.

Throw in the lucky surfboard from the “pandemic draft” and the Chargers might turn the odds in their favor for the three-day draft in Las Vegas.

“If we hadn’t had the pandemic draft, it would be really, really strange,” Telesco said. “I would have been, probably, fighting back a little bit on it. … If I can draft from my dining room table, I can draft from anywhere.”

The Chargers didn’t have to fight with the Rams to use SoFi Stadium on opening night of the draft as the Rams don’t pick until the third round Friday. The Rams haven’t made a first-round pick since selecting Jared Goff first overall in 2016. They have shipped their top picks in trades for Goff, Brandin Cooks, Jalen Ramsey and Matthew Stafford.

The Rams’ aggressive approach took time but paid off with a Super Bowl victory more than two months ago and now a handful of teams have followed Rams general manager Les Snead’s “Eff them picks” mantra.

The Chargers’ AFC West rivals Raiders and Broncos don’t have first-round picks after acquiring wide receiver Davante Adams and quarterback Russell Wilson, respectively. The Chiefs, the six-time AFC West champions, have two first-round picks after trading speedy wide receiver Tyreek Hill to Miami. Eight teams will enter Thursday’s draft without a first-round pick, including the Chicago Bears, Indianapolis Colts, Cleveland Browns and San Francisco 49ers.

“I haven’t changed, no,” Telesco said after being asked if the notable trades have made him change his draft approach. “I think what people forget about the Rams – I mean, everyone is focused on those first-round picks – but they’ve drafted and developed players really well, middle and late (rounds). It kind of gets glossed over. I guess it’s not as sexy, but they’ve done a great job with that, both Les and (Rams coach) Sean (McVay).”

Telesco has selected at least one first-round draft pick in his prior nine drafts with the Chargers and most of those picks have been successful. Left tackle Rashawn Slater (2021), Herbert (2020), James (2018), wide receiver Mike Williams (2017) and edge rusher Joey Bosa (2016) are cornerstone pieces for the organization, and even running back Melvin Gordon (2015) and cornerback Jason Verrett (2014) had success before moving on to different teams.

Kenneth Murray (2020) and Jerry Tillery (2019) so far haven’t lived up to expectations. Ironically, Telesco’s first draft in 2013 had arguably his worst first-round selection with offensive tackle D.J. Fluker, who went 11th overall, and his best middle-round pick in Allen, who was taken in the third round and is now a five-time Pro Bowler.

But, unlike the Rams, Telesco hasn’t found enough gems in the middle to late rounds, which could be one reason why the Chargers have only two playoff wins in his tenure. Only one player remains from Telesco’s drafts in 2018 (James), 2017 (Williams), 2016 (Bosa) and 2013 (Allen) and none from 2014 and 2015.

Telesco is also on his third head coach – Brandon Staley was preceded by Anthony Lynn (2017-2020) and Mike McCoy (2013-2016).

Most GMs wouldn’t see a 10th season with the same team without at least winning one division title, something Telesco hasn’t done, but not many GMs can say they have drafted six Pro Bowlers from their first-round selections, including a franchise quarterback.

 

 

With the 17th pick, the Chargers could start their draft by selecting defensive tackle Jordan Davis to repair their run defense, or cornerback Trent McDuffie to defend the star quarterbacks of the AFC West, or wide receiver Chris Olave to stretch the field for Herbert, or offensive tackle Trevor Penning to block for Herbert.

But the Chargers also need a running back to complement Austin Ekeler, another pass rusher to assist Bosa and Mack, depth at linebacker and players who can contribute on special teams, an area that has hampered the organization for the past decade. The Chargers have 10 total picks, with two in the sixth round and four in the seventh round, to address these needs.

“In my career, I can’t remember ever having this many picks in the sixth and seventh rounds,” Telesco said. “I have no idea how it’s going to roll. When you get down toward that seventh round, the way we do our board, there’s not a lot of players left down there. We’ll kind of see how it shakes out. It’s going to be kind of fun, I guess, to have that many picks in the seventh, but we’ll see. It wouldn’t be a straight focus on just special teams. We’ll kind of see where it goes.”

Telesco said it’s possible that the team could look to trade down in the first round to regain the second-round pick they sent to the Chicago Bears for Khalil Mack, but that might put them in the back of the line for the opening round. Telesco has never traded down in the first round, but he’s also never traded a second-round pick for a veteran player before acquiring Mack.

A few more quality pieces in this year’s draft could be what the Chargers need to finally win their first division title since 2009.

“Yeah, I don’t really grade drafts,” Telesco said. “I’ll leave that up to you.”

CHARGERS DRAFTFEST

When: 3 p.m. Thursday

Where: SoFi Stadium

Musical performances: Snoop Dogg, Esther Anaya

Scheduled player appearances: Justin Herbert, Derwin James, Keenan Allen, Chris Rumph II, Gerald Everett

Tickets: Free tickets can be claimed on the Chargers’ team website or app

CHARGERS’ 2022 DRAFT PICKS

First round: 17th overall

Third round: 79th overall

Fourth round: 123rd overall

Fifth round: 160th overall

Sixth round (2): 195th and 214th overall (compensatory selection)

Seventh round (4): 236th, 254th (compensatory selection), 255th (compensatory selection) and 260th overall (compensatory selection)









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