In his pre-draft press conference, General Manager Tom Telesco explained how on average, the team usually has about 15-18 players with first-round grades.
Picking 28th overall, the odds suggested the Chargers wouldn’t be in position to land a player they had graded as a first-rounder.
Well, as luck would have it, they ended up grabbing the very last one they had ranked that high in Notre Dame defensive tackle Jerry Tillery.
“He was (the last one),” Telesco told the media following the selection. “He was it, which I give our scouts credit. They saw him, they liked him. They had him in the right spot for us. Everybody's board is a little bit different, but also, knowing with the 28th pick that we got a guy that we feel is a solid first round player. You don't always get that at the 28th pick. I told everybody, 'We may have to (select) a guy on our board that is (a) top of the second round player with the first pick if we can't trade out.' I had no problem with that at all, but it worked out that Jerry was there — and we took him.”
That’s not to say the Bolts were necessarily surprised to see him there.
“I kind of felt like he'd be right in our area,” Telesco said. “I kind of felt like that. He's a gifted man at that size. It's hard to move. His change of direction, his foot speed, for a guy at that height and that size — we're lucky to have him."
They’re sure glad he was as Tillery certainly impressed the Chargers on tape.
A Second-Team All-America pick a year ago, Tillery led Notre Dame with eight sacks while also logging 30 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss and three forced fumbles. He also blocked two kicks, proving his worth on special teams. Overall, he appeared in 50 games for the Fighting Irish, finishing with 135 total tackles, 24.5 tackles for loss and 13.5 sacks.
As if that wasn’t enough, Telesco explained how Tillery’s style projects well into the Bolts’ system.
"He fits on (our) interior defensive line,” he said. “His size, his length — he's 6-6 and 300 pounds with a very athletic build — has long arms, is very flexible and runs well for a big guy. He has some inside pass-rush ability. That really jumped off the tape to us, his movement skills for such a big man. It's nice getting somebody inside with some length and size to try and push that pocket a little bit with our edge rushers Joey (Bosa) and Melvin (Ingram) — kind of work in on that defensive line."
Meanwhile, general managers are constantly asked if they draft for need or best available.
The Chargers entered the draft with a dearth at defensive tackle with only three players under contract, but Telesco explained that need wasn’t the reason the team selected Tillery. He was the best player on their board, and he just happened to play a position they needed to reinforce.
"It was just the way it lined up,” he said. “When you're picking at 28, you're not going to have a wide variety of players that you're picking from and have the same talent level. Jerry, for us, was very high on the board. We feel very good with Brandon Mebane, and Justin Jones is a starting defensive tackle in this league. We feel great about him, but depth is very important. The skillset that Jerry brings is very important. He gets some push up the middle. The fact that he can still win with his feet, with his quickness and his length to make the quarterback — kind of shrink those windows up front. We have two edge pass rushers that get up the field and move around, so to try and tighten that pocket up a little bit, Jerry does a good job of that."