One year ago, Tom Telesco secured the Chargers' future at quarterback, selecting Justin Herbert with the No. 6 overall pick. This draft, he's charged with building around the Offensive Rookie of the Year.
Los Angeles is slated to pick at No. 13, a no-man's land for most general managers, where the top talent at key positions is off the board and both trading up and trading down makes sense.
The Chargers could go in many different directions, but a popular thought is that Telesco will commit his highest draft capital to protecting and supporting his new franchise QB. After all, L.A. already signed All-Pro center Corey Linsley and former Steelers lineman Matt Feiler this offseason and added Jared Cook in an attempt to replace the departed Hunter Henry.
Telesco, however, isn't committed to targeting one position or side of the football early on.
"As we go into the draft, we're drafting players, not positions," Telesco told reporters Friday, per a team transcript. "That's kind of the way that we have to look at it. We're not just trying to fill out the team for opening day in 2021; this is how we look at it. This isn't just 'GM speak.' You have to look at this year, and then 2022, 2023, 2024. That's what we're drafting these players for. We don't look at it as far as, 'Hey, what positions do we have to add to?' We're drafting players first, and then we go from there. It's players more than positions.
"I'm pretty confident that we won't be drafting a quarterback real early this year. Other than that, everything would be on the table."
QB is sure taken care of. The Chargers transitioned seamlessly from Philip Rivers to Herbert in 2020, potentially setting up three decades of above-average quarterback play in the process. But without a reliable offensive line, Herbert could suffer the same fate as Rivers did in his later years in SoCal: constant pressure from opposing pass rushers.
With Trey Pipkins, a former third-round pick entering his third season with eight starts to his name, currently slated to start 2021 as Herbert's blindside blocker, the Chargers could choose to upgrade at tackle in the draft and continue their O-line makeover. Asked Friday if he thinks there's a hole at left tackle, Telesco said "maybe," but noted L.A. likes what it has on the roster.
"We're very bullish on Trey Pipkins. I was impressed by how he played late in the year," Telesco said. "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."
Telesco also pushed back this week on the presumption that L.A. needs to target offensive line or else.
"Let's not forget we need to add talent amongst the whole football team. We're trying to build a balanced football team," Telesco said, per ESPN's Shelley Smith. "I don't know if we're, you know, just a better offensive line away from winning a championship."
At No. 13, the top two tackles in the draft, Oregon's Penei Sewell and Northwestern's Rashawn Slater, are expected to be gone, though some analysts have mocked Slater to L.A. Others have the Chargers going defense and taking a cornerback, like South Carolina's Jaycee Horn, to replace Casey Hayward.
The possibilities are endless for the Bolts midway through the draft; Telesco hasn't ruled out trading up or down, but said Friday he's "comfortable" at No. 13. With which player the veteran GM's most comfortable remains to be seen.
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