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Las Vegas Raiders: What Tom Telesco’s track record may indicate about his approach to the 2024 NFL draft

Las Vegas Raiders, Tom Telesco
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Three weeks away from the 2024 NFL draft, teams are likely going through several draft plans and scenarios. Las Vegas Raiders general manager Tom Telesco has gone through this process for 11 years, and his expertise is probably part of the reason why owner Mark Davis hired him.

Every year, teams face different challenges while navigating through seven rounds of the draft, but general managers have certain habits. 

So, what about Telesco’s draft tendencies? 

With a decade-plus of draft history, Telesco certainly has some preferences and methods for addressing roster needs.

Let’s examine common threads in Telesco’s recent draft history and take an overall look at his decisions with the Los Angeles Chargers between 2013 and 2023. 

Adjust your mock drafts accordingly.

Related: NFL Draft expert reveals sleeper pick for Las Vegas Raiders in first round

Small sample size favors mobile quarterbacks

Jayden Daniels
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Tom Telesco had the luxury of inheriting a team with a franchise quarterback in Philip Rivers and then he selected Justin Herbert with the No. 6 overall pick in a strong 2020 quarterback class that included Joe Burrow (No. 1 overall), Tua Tagovailoa (No. 5 overall), Jordan Love (No. 26 overall) and Jalen Hurts (No. 53 overall).

In 2020, Telesco didn’t have to maneuver the draft order to get in position for a top quarterback prospect. So, we cannot properly judge what he may or may not do to land a blue-chip player at the position this year.

Though recently, Telesco drafted a couple of backups in Easton Stick (2019 fifth-rounder) and Max Duggan (2023 seventh-rounder). Both quarterbacks are more athletic in terms of mobility than Aidan O’Connell and Gardner Minshew. 

Stick rushed for 2,523 yards and 41 touchdowns through four terms at North Dakota State. Duggan ran for 1,856 yards and 28 touchdowns at TCU.

You don’t measure a quarterback’s mobility solely on rushing yards (watch how a passer moves in the pocket) but clearly, Telesco favors mobile signal-callers. 

Assuming the Raiders draft a quarterback early, Telesco may target a “toolsy” quarterback who’s significantly more dynamic than O’Connell and Minshew.

Aggressive in attacking offensive line needs

Houston Texans mock draft 2024, JC Latham
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Tom Telesco isn’t going to ignore the Raiders’ glaring needs along the offensive line. When the Chargers needed to fill holes within that position group, he made sure to address those voids early and with multiple selections.

In 2017, Telesco selected guards Forrest Lamp and Dan Feeney in the second and third rounds, respectively. 

Lamp (6-4, 309 lbs) and Feeney (6-4, 305 lbs) had similar measurements at the NFL Scouting Combine and were two of the most athletic guards in the class. Keep those physical profiles in mind when you think about the Raiders’ need at the position.

In the sixth round of the same year, Telesco took offensive tackle Sam Tevi, who went on to start 44 out of 58 career games.

In 2021 and 2022, Telesco selected offensive linemen in the first round, offensive tackle Rashawn Slater and then guard Zion Johnson, respectively. In both years, he double-dipped on offensive linemen with another pick on Day 3. 

During an interview with JT The Brick on Raider Nation Radio 920AM, Telesco said the offensive line group is a “work-in-progress.” 

Don’t be surprised if the Raiders draft three players (one in the first round) to revamp the right side of the offensive line.

Related: Las Vegas Raiders: Assessing urgency to fill top roster needs before the 2024 NFL Draft

Tom Telesco has drafted one cornerback in Round 1

Detroit Lions free agent targets 2024, Stephon Gilmore
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In 11 years as a general manager with the Los Angeles Chargers, Tom Telesco has only drafted a cornerback in the first round once. He did it in 2014, taking Jason Verrett with the 25th overall pick.

Perhaps with a new regime, Telesco will take a different approach to acquiring cornerback talent during the draft, but Telesco has typically relied on free agency to address needs at the position.

In 2022, the Chargers signed J.C. Jackson to a big-money deal. After four years with the Green Bay Packers, Casey Hayward signed with the Chargers and had a solid four-year run (including a Pro Bowl year) with them. Brandon Flowers suited up for three campaigns with the Chargers after six years with the Kansas City Chiefs.

With Adoree’ Jackson, who has experience in Patrick Graham’s scheme, Stephon Gilmore, Xavien Howard, and Steven Nelson all still available, Telesco may fall into his old habits and sign a veteran before or after the draft and select a cornerback between Rounds 2 and 3 rather than take one in the first round.

Related: Recently traded first-round pick reportedly had interest in quarterbacking Las Vegas Raiders in 2024

Las Vegas Raiders fans: Get familiar with middle-round wideouts

NCAA Football: Virginia at Miami
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Davante Adams, Jakobi Meyers and Tre Tucker will likely take the field in most three-receiver sets, though that’s probably not going to stop Tom Telesco from taking a wideout in the middle rounds of the draft.

Yes, wide receivers Keenan Allen and Mike Williams had issues with injuries over the past several years, but in recent drafts, Telesco has routinely looked for third-to-fifth-round contributors at the position. 

In three of the last four years, Telesco has drafted a wide receiver between the first and fifth rounds. Among those selections, Joshua Palmer carved out a decent role for himself in the absence of either Allen or Williams.

Last year, Telesco took a more aggressive approach at wide receiver, taking Quentin Johnston in the first round. Though the TCU product had an underwhelming rookie campaign, Telesco has shown that he’s willing to add role players to complement his top pass-catchers. 

Related: Las Vegas Raiders want Aidan O’Connell to compete for starting QB job in 2024

Linebacker could also be an option in the middle rounds

NCAA Football: North Carolina at Clemson
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If you’re a Raider fan who wants to see the team draft another linebacker before the fifth round, this could be your year. 

The Raiders’ previous regimes under former general managers Dave Ziegler, Mike Mayock and Reggie McKenzie didn’t prioritize the linebacker position on draft days. Since 2012, the team has drafted one off-ball (non-pass-rushing) linebacker before Day 3 of the draft, Divine Deablo, who mostly played safety at Virginia Tech.

So, of course, the Raiders have struggled to find a consistent presence in the middle of their defense.

We’ve seen a few solid veteran Band-Aids at linebacker, like Perry Riley, Denzel Perryman, and currently Robert Spillane, fill the spot adequately for a season or two, but the team hasn’t been able to hold on to a long-term starter at the position.

Maybe Telesco can change that with an early pick who can immediately compete for snaps at linebacker or fill a certain role, perhaps in pass coverage. 

In 11 drafts with the Chargers, Telesco has selected an off-ball linebacker in the fourth round or earlier six times, four times within the three rounds.

Last year, Telesco took Daiyan Henley with the 85th overall pick. Kenneth Murray, a 2020 first-rounder, hasn’t played up to expectations. That being said, the Raiders’ new general manager isn’t afraid to take a big swing at a linebacker, who’s essentially the “quarterback” of most defenses.

Maurice Moton covers the Las Vegas Raiders for Sportsnaut. You can follow him on Twitter at @MoeMoton.

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