New York Giants coach Joe Judge recently joked that his 6-year-old golden retriever, Abby, knows the most of anyone outside of the organization on who the Giants plan to draft in the first round.
That makes you wonder if anyone in Tom Telesco’s household knows the Chargers’ first-round selection. Telesco, who’s entering his eighth season as the Chargers’ general manager, has spent the past month working from his dining room table at his Newport Beach home.
“No, you can ask, they’re sitting right over here,” Telesco said Friday during his pre-draft video conference with reporters. “They’ve been in here for all the coaches’ meetings, all the scouts’ meetings, everything. I don’t think they know what’s going on. They better not.”
It’s a bit of a surprise that Telesco is doing draft preparations in the open instead of being locked in an office room. Everyone has been ordered to work from home because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Telesco has a reputation for not revealing much when it comes to looming personnel decisions, which was the case during Friday’s news conference. Also, long-time NFL reporter Peter King recently called Telesco a top-five GM poker player in the league.
“I got a big dining room table,” said Telesco, whose team holds the No. 6 overall pick in Thursday’s NFL draft. “I’m all spread out. It hasn’t been too bad. I wish I had a door to shut from time to time, but other than that … it’s been nice.”
Telesco is secretive, like most general managers, but he’s confident no family members have been eavesdropping on his tedious work.
The rest of the NFL world is going to have to wait until Thursday to see if the Chargers pick their next franchise quarterback or go in a different direction. But that doesn’t mean the mind games will stop until then, and Telesco sort of contributed to that during his Zoom chat.
Telesco was asked if durability ranks high when it comes to drafting players.
“Very, very high,” he said. “I can’t even estimate the amount of hours we put in to the medical portion of it. Our team doctors, both orthopedic and general medicine, do a ton of work for us.”
That was a standard response, but it was noteworthy for the Chargers because they’ve been linked to potentially drafting Tua Tagovailoa, the talented quarterback from Alabama with a lengthy injury history.
Some on social media are calling this a smokescreen, an attempt from Telesco to scare away other teams from potentially drafting a quarterback he wants. But 10 minutes before that, Telesco said there’s no need for general managers to blurt smokescreens anymore.
“You don’t have to anymore,” Telesco said. “You guys (media) talk about it so much at both ends of the spectrum all the time. I mean, we don’t have to say anything. What GM really goes out there and tells anybody anything anyways?”
If Telesco’s “very, very high” on durability comment holds merit, then perhaps he prefers Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert. To the draft experts, Herbert isn’t as polished as Tagovailoa, but he has all the tools to develop into a star quarterback and doesn’t come with the medical concerns.
Every general manager wants a player to be healthy and available, but often times a player’s talent makes it worth the risk when it comes to medical concerns. Telesco has drafted players coming off injuries, most recently with last year’s first-round pick, Jerry Tillery, who had shoulder surgery a month before the draft.
But Tillery was drafted 28th overall, and that’s not as critical as a top-10 pick, especially during a quarterback search.
Telesco and the Chargers are in uncharted territory. They haven’t drafted a quarterback in the first round since selecting Eli Manning No. 1 overall in 2004. They later traded Manning to the Giants for No. 4 pick Philip Rivers, who went on to start the past 14 seasons for the Chargers. Rivers now plays for the Indianapolis Colts.
The Chargers are also moving to a new stadium. How much does drafting the player with the most star power factor into their draft process knowing that they need to sell 70,000 tickets every home game?
Telesco and the Chargers could potentially find themselves with the scenario of deciding between Tagovailoa and Herbert, although that might require them trading up or the Miami Dolphins, who hold the No. 5 pick, passing on drafting a quarterback.
But Telesco said he’s prepared for that scenario and many others that might come in the first or second rounds. Another potential scenario could be if Tagovailoa and Herbert are gone by the time they’re on the clock. Do they draft for need with one of the top offensive tackles or go for the best available player, possibly Clemson linebacker Isaiah Simmons?
Perhaps everyone is wrong and quarterback isn’t a top need. The Chargers continue to sell quarterback Tyrod Taylor as the starter, and Telesco said Friday there’s no interest as of now on signing notable free-agent quarterback Cam Newton.
“We go through every scenario that could possibly happen even ones that you think could never happen, but we talk them out beforehand and discuss as a group what would we do and those discussions take a while,” Telesco said. “So on draft day, we’re going to have some questions, have discussions still, but it won’t be a lot, we’ve already talked about this.”The Chargers likely have their draft board set by now and they won’t provide hints on who’s at the top. There’s a better chance of the team’s new uniforms leaking before Tuesday than Telesco sharing his draft board.
“When you get this close to the draft, it’s hard to know or believe anything that you hear,” Telesco said. “Sometimes what you hear in January and February has a little more substance to it at this point. I’ve heard everything about everybody.”
Thursday’s draft can’t come soon enough.