NFL Draft

Can Tom Telesco Find Value in Late Rounds?


Tom Telesco has struggled to do much in the final two rounds of the draft. He has selected five players between Rounds 6-7 during his three years at the helm, and only one (Tourek Williams) has made any sort of significant contribution.

One of his worst picks was QB Brad Sorensen in the seventh round back in 2013, if only because Sorensen said afterward he was already planning on signing with the Chargers as an undrafted free agent.

Telesco’s struggles in the later rounds are one of the reasons the Chargers are hurting for quality depth. It’s a serious issue, one he hopes to remedy during his fourth draft as general manager later this month.

Finding value in the later rounds is difficult, and every team has a different approach. Some teams view the later rounds as a good time to gamble on players with character concerns; others take the opportunity to tab developmental prospects who can be groomed to contribute two or three years down the line.

The Chargers, who need a bounce-back season in the worst kind of way, should take a different approach. Telesco needs to target positions that are typically undervalued in the draft, which happen to correlate with some of San Diego’s more urgent needs.

Positions like offensive guard and fullback always have an abundance of talent available late. Other roles, such as a blocking tight end or a two-down linebacker, can also be filled on the second half of Day Three. Tweeners, whether they be linemen or defensive backs, also have a tendency to slide.

This is something Telesco must take advantage of, as the Chargers are in dire need of players who can contribute immediately.

Fortunately, there are several players who fit these descriptions who could give the Chargers a great return on their late-round investment.

OG/C Alex Huettel could be the next Scott Mruczkowski, a fellow Bowling Green product who was selected in the seventh round in 2005 and went on to have a seven-year career with the Bolts.

FB Dan Vitale is an excellent blocker and receiver. The Northwestern “super back” could be the traditional fullback the Chargers need to get the running game unglued. He has talked candidly about wanting to open running lanes for Melvin Gordon.

“[Gordon is] a phenomenal football player,” Vitale said. “I remember watching him as another Big 10 guy and seeing all the success he had over the course of his career. Being able to block for a guy like that makes my job a lot easier as a fullback. If I got drafted by the Chargers, I would definitely try to open up some lanes for him and make him the best running back in the NFL.”

Speaking of helping the running game, a blocking tight end could certainly aid the cause. Iowa TE Henry Krieger-Coble isn’t a “third tackle” type, but he’s a gritty player who will do the dirty work in the trenches and also contribute on special teams.

“If I’m lucky enough to make a team I’m going to have to go out there and show I can cover kicks and be on return teams and everything like that,” he told SDBR earlier this offseason.

On the other side of the ball, ECU ILB Zeek Bigger is one to watch as the Chargers look to replenish depth after releasing Donald Butler and Kavell Conner earlier this offseason. Bigger lacks the speed to excel in coverage but is a tackling machine.

As for the “tweeners” we cited above, Penn State DT/DE Anthony Zettel and Mississippi State CB/FS Taveze Calhoun would make great pickups if either fell to the top of the sixth round.

Obviously, the Chargers cannot acquire all of these players (although some may slip into undrafted free agency). What’s important is that Telesco takes advantage of the draft’s undervalued positions to acquire a couple contributors in the last two rounds.

About Michael Lombardo

Michael Lombardo has covered the San Diego Chargers since 2003. He spent 12 years covering the team for and has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports, Football Insiders and MySpace Sports.

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