COSTA MESA, Calif. (AP) — For any NFL team with a star quarterback of a certain age, the draft is an annual chance to anoint a successor. It's also a chance for fans, pundits and the rest of the league to spend several months enthusiastically discussing whether that team will make the move.
COSTA MESA, Calif. (AP) — For any NFL team with a star quarterback of a certain age, the draft is an annual chance to anoint a successor.
It's also a chance for fans, pundits and the rest of the league to spend several months enthusiastically discussing whether that team will make the move.
The Los Angeles Chargers have had the same starting quarterback in every game since 2006, and Philip Rivers will turn 37 years old in the fall.
Already one of the most prolific passers in NFL history, Rivers said last week he is nowhere near retirement and intends to play "a handful more years."
That hasn't stopped the football world from wondering whether general manager Tom Telesco will decide that this is the year to grab his next quarterback when he makes the 17th overall pick on Thursday night.
After winning nine of their final 12 games and barely missing the playoffs last season, the Chargers have a solid roster with few obvious weak spots. The time could be right for a move toward the future behind center, but Telesco isn't sure.
"That's a question we know we'll get every year until we draft a quarterback," Telesco said Monday.
"The great thing right now is that we're very happy with Philip. He's our quarterback, hands down, rest assured, for this year and hopefully beyond. But we always have to have an eye on the future. That's part of our job. There are a lot of other areas on our football team that we'd like to add to, too. That's all part of it."
Telesco realizes the questions are particularly sharp this spring not because of any decline in Rivers' play, which was largely outstanding last season, but because a handful of elite prospects could be available when the Chargers are on the clock.
Local product Josh Rosen and Heisman Trophy winners Lamar Jackson and Baker Mayfield all are conceivable possibilities for the Bolts, particularly if they elected to trade up a bit.
Telesco agrees the crop of quarterbacks in this draft is "a deep class, not only in the first round, but some other rounds as well. We've seen it the last couple of years. The quarterback classes have been pretty good. Guys are coming into the league and playing a little bit quicker than they used to."
With Geno Smith and Cardale Jones on the roster behind Rivers, Telesco has the luxury of knowing he doesn't need to draft a quarterback. He'll decide soon whether the succession plan will wait another year.
Here are more things to contemplate before the Chargers make their picks:
The Chargers' prolonged surge into playoff contention last season left them squarely in the middle of the pack for the draft. Telesco would have rather been in the postseason than the 17th overall slot, but his scouts and executives believe they can get a worthy talent with their current position.
"You typically have about 18 to 20 first-round-graded players, give or take a couple," Telesco said. "If we don't trade out, we'll still get someone who we feel is a first-round player on our board. It's just more scenarios you have to work through."
BACK ON D
Telesco's team has plenty of desires, but no gaping needs that would compel them to value position over talent. Telesco said he will stick to his philosophy of picking the top available player, but he sees "more defense" among the desirable picks in this particular draft pool.
If that's a clue to the Chargers' intentions, they have plenty of needs, including a topflight safety to replace Tre Boston or a starting linebacker to help out Denzel Perryman.
While Los Angeles has one of the NFL's best pass-rushing duos with Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram, another defensive tackle such as Vita Vea or Da'Ron Payne would bolster a sometimes porous run defense.
RUN IT BACK
Telesco acknowledges he could be looking for an offensive playmaker who can double as a kick returner after Los Angeles finished 30th in the league in return yards. The Bolts already have elite talent at receiver in Keenan Allen, Tyrell Williams and Mike Williams, who is hard at work in the offseason program after an injury-filled rookie year as the seventh overall pick.
DO THE WORK
The Chargers' front office executives and scouts were busy this week preparing for the draft by sifting through hundreds of scouting reports and making their final evaluations before going into a massive mock draft.
"We'll go through different scenarios of where guys would go, and what we would do," Telesco said. "Because (on) draft day, you can't have those discussions. It's hard enough making decisions with the clock ticking down in front of you. You can't have those long discussions at that point. You have to have that decided."
HITS, MISSES AND BARGAINS
Telesco's first five years in charge included big hits in 2016 with first-round pick Bosa and second-round tight end Hunter Henry, both budding stars. He also grabbed running back Melvin Gordon in the first round in 2015 and got starting linebacker Denzel Perryman in the second round.
Telesco hasn't been as successful in unearthing hidden gems, with few later-round picks becoming major contributors. For instance, 2016 third-round pick Max Tuerk lasted just two years and failed to become the Bolts' starting center. But he got a huge hit in the third round in 2013 when he drafted Keenan Allen, who overcame injuries to become a Pro Bowl receiver.
Much of the evaluation of last year's class must wait, since first-round receiver Mike Williams didn't play much and second-round offensive lineman Forrest Lamp missed the whole season because of injuries.