LA Chargers Roster Grows Stronger
Telesco Spent Years Building Team
August 8, 2019
The NFL draft is frequently referred to as a crapshoot. But don't tell Tom Telesco that. Telesco is the General Manager of the Los Angeles Chargers and the architect of the current Chargers roster. Telesco was hired in 2013 to turn the Chargers around.
Telesco pledged that the Chargers would be a draft driven organization, stating that "we're going to be home-grown."
Six years later, the Chargers have built a roster full of home-grown players that has put the Chargers in a position to challenge for an NFL title.
Of the 22 current starters on offense and defense, 16 were acquired through the draft. The other six were acquired through free agency. Starting with his first draft in 2013, the Chargers have drafted a player each year who became an All-Pro or played in a Pro Bowl.
In the 2013 NFL draft, the Chargers selected wide receiver Keenan Allen in the third round. Allen quickly become a top target of quarterback Philip Rivers. Allen has caught 420 passes and has 28 touchdowns in his six-year career. Allen made the Pro Bowl the past two seasons in 2017 & 2018.
In 2014, the Chargers selected cornerback Jason Verrett in the first round (25th overall) of the 2014 NFL Draft. Verrett was selected to the Pro Bowl in 2015, his second season in the NFL. Unfortunately, Verrett only played five games in 2016 & 2017 due to knee injuries.
In 2015, the Chargers selected running back Melvin Gordon in the first round with the 15th overall pick. Gordon has become a workhorse for the Chargers and a dual threat out of the backfield. In four seasons, Gordon has rushed for 3,628 yards and 28 rushing touchdowns. He has also become a top target of Rivers, catching 182 passes for a total of 1,577 yards and ten touchdown receptions.
In 2016, the Chargers selected defensive end Joey Bosa in the first round with the third overall selection. Bosa quickly established himself as one of the better best rushing defensive ends in the NFL. In his first two seasons, Bosa had 23 sacks and earned a pro bowl selection in 2017.
In 2017, the Chargers found a gem in the 5th round of the NFL draft with the selection of defensive back Desmond King. Considered undersized by some scouts, King instantly made an impact on both defense and special teams.
In two seasons, King has 133 tackles, four sacks, four interceptions, two fumble recoveries and a punt return for a touchdown. King has returned two interceptions for touchdowns. He was named first team All-Pro as a defensive back and 2nd team All-Pro as a punt returner.
In 2018, the Chargers selected safety Derwin James in the first round (17th overall) in the 2018 NFL Draft. James became an instant star ad a Day 1 starter. James led the Chargers in tackles with 105, had 13 pass deflections and 3 interceptions. James was selected to the Pro Bowl at the end of his rookie season and was also named first team All-Pro.
The Chargers have developed several other starters through the draft that will likely become pro bowl players in the future. Starting wide receiver Mike Williams, a first-round pick in 2017, had ten touchdown receptions last season.
Starting tight end Hunter Henry, a 2nd round pick in 2016, had 12 touchdown receptions in his first two seasons. The Chargers defense is difficult to run against when middle linebacker Denzel Perryman, a 2015 2nd round pick, is on the field.
Developing home grown talent has advantages in the NFL. As part of the NFL rookie wage scale, every rookie signs a four-year contract. The value of these contracts obviously varies, but the length does not. First-round picks have a fifth-year option available to teams, which allows a fifth year at an affordable price for a team. The NFL rookie scale offers the team more leverage and time to develop players at a lower price.
If a team drafts well and develops players, they have control over good players at affordable contracts. They have a much better chance of keeping these players on their roster when their contracts expire. Teams can use the NFL franchise tag or the NFL transition tag to keep players on their roster. Plus, they don't need to spend as much on free agents that can be expensive and older.
The Chargers are set-up through their effective drafting and development of players to be a force in the NFL for several years. Telesco, who spent 14 years with the Indianapolis Colts, understands the difficulty in winning an NFL Championship.
The Colts were in the playoffs twelve times during that period, winning one NFL Championship and appearing in two Super Bowls. That experience will be helpful for the Chargers.