Tom Telesco has been in an NFL war room on draft day for the last 19 years.
But this year marks a first for the first year Chargers general manager. He will no longer be just another voice in the room. He will be the man making the final decision.
“I’ve been lucky enough that even when I was a younger employee I was always in the draft room on draft day,” he said. “So even in my first year in the league in ’95 I was in the draft room so I’ve seen that process from ’95 up until now. Obviously (I had) different responsibilities so it’s really just what you’ve done in the past that prepares you for it.”
All these years of experience have enabled Telesco to develop a philosophy, one which he has brought with him to the Chargers and will deploy next week when the NFL Draft commences.
“Number one, we don’t rank our needs,” he said. “To me, if you start ranking your needs, it may start influencing your draft board so we have positions we think we’d like to add players to and then after that we let the board tell us where to go. We don’t rank our players 1-255. It’s more of a horizontal look by position and then we’ll rank each player against each other at different positions. But we let the board tell us where to go. Obviously we do take in to account which positions we’d like to add players to but we don’t go into it with a one or two, these are positions we have to hit early.”
An important part of anyone's draft philosophy is his approach to trading. Telesco would readily admit that it's far from a perfect science which is why his 19 years of draft experience come in handy.
“It’s always an option,” he said. “It’s always an option to maybe move down and pick up some picks, which would be great. The board will tell you a lot of times if you can do that. If you’re going to trade down, you need to know what you’re going to get if you do trade down and then the other side of that is can you find someone if you want to trade up. That’s something where you can make some calls before the draft but really in reality you don’t really know until either you’re on the clock or a couple of picks before if you can actually do that, but yes, it’s certainly an option.”
Telesco has preached a draft-first philosophy from the moment he became the team’s general manager back in January. Building through the draft means drafting the players who can ultimately contribute the most to the overall success of the team. But as Telesco said before, the draft is far from a perfect science.
“You’re just not going to hit on players 100 percent of the time,” he explained. “We try desperately to hit on all our picks. If you have seven picks, you want to hit on all seven guys. Every year you want to do it but every year, even the best drafters, it’s like 65 or 70 percent over a four-year span. Those are the best, but the goal every year is you want all those seven guys to come in and contribute.”
Telesco has a lot of experience when it comes to the draft, having spent countless hours during his career preparing for NFL drafts. But still, he says he’s never seen one quite like this one.
“This year it’s really unique because the first 15 picks or so, we really don’t know who will go in the first 15,” said Telesco. “Usually the first four or five you can pretty much pinpoint and then after that you have to do some educated guessing but this year, I think from a fan standpoint should be really exciting. For us, it probably means just more preparation than usual because it’s hard to get a real good feel for what may happen in the first 15, certainly the first 10.”
Telesco certainly has his top choices, but he may not know who it will be until minutes before the Chargers are on the clock.