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Tom Telesco’s best and worst draft picks at Raiders’ positions of need

Diving into the new GM’s draft history at QB, CB, DT and OL

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NFL Combine
Tom Telesco
Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

In a bit of a surprise twist, the Las Vegas Raiders have filled their void at general manager by hiring Tom Telesco. Before the search even began, Mark Davis spoke to The Athletic about wanting to avoid pairing a rookie head coach with a rookie general manager, which is likely what led him to pick Telesco after hiring Antonio Pierce last week.

Telesco served as the San Diego/Los Angeles Chargers’ GM from 2013 to 2023, giving him plenty of experience in this role. That also means he has an extensive NFL Draft history to dive into.

The Raiders are expected to begin the offseason with the following positions as the team’s top needs: quarterback, cornerback, defensive tackle, interior offensive line and right tackle. Below is a look at Telesco’s best and worst draft picks at those spots to help get a gauge for how successful and consistent he’s been at filling those needs in the past.

Quarterback

Best pick: Justin Herbert (2020 Round 1, pick 6)

Worst pick: Easton Stick (2019 Round 5, pick 166)

Philip Rivers was already in the building when Telesco took over in San Diego so he doesn’t have a long track record of drafting quarterbacks. But the good news is he has a strong hit rate seeing as Herbert is one of the most talented and best young players at the position.

The rest of the GM’s selections behind center have been late-rounders/backup options — Brad Sorenson (2013, seventh-round), Stick and Max Duggan (2023, seventh-round) — so it’s hard to determine the “worst pick” in this category and that shouldn’t carry much weight.

Cornerback

Best pick: Asante Samuel Jr. (2021 Round 2, pick 47)

Worst pick: Craig Mager (2018 Round 3, pick 83)

Telesco had a couple of good finds at cornerback; Samuel Jr. and Desmond King.

While Samuel Jr. doesn’t have any accolades to his name yet, he has impressive ball skills with six interceptions and 35 passes defended during the regular season. He also had three picks and a couple of PBUs in the playoff game last year.

An argument could be made that King was an even better pick as he was a college safety before being selected in the fifth round and converting to a slot corner in the NFL. He’s put together a strong seven-year career that includes first-team All-Pro honors in 2018.

Telesco has spent a first-round pick on a corner once, Jason Verrett in 2014 (25th overall), but Verrett’s success is ambiguous. When healthy and on the field, he’s been very good and earned a Pro Bowl bid in 2015. However, he’s dealt with several season-ending injuries and has missed more games than he’s played in.

As for Mager, that’s a tough selection that Telesco will have to wear. The Texas State product did suffer a few injuries at the beginning of his career, but the Chargers ended up cutting him at the end of training camp two years after spending a top-100 pick on him. Mager had a short stint with the Denver Broncos after that but never caught on anywhere else.

Defensive Tackle

Los Angeles Chargers v Las Vegas Raiders
Jerry Tillery vs. Raiders 2022
Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Best pick: Justin Jones (2018 Round 3, pick 84)

Worst pick: Jerry Tillery (2019 Round 1, pick 28)

To be honest, Telesco’s track record with drafting defensive tackles is pretty underwhelming. Jones has been a starter since his second year in the league, including these last two seasons with the Chicago Bears, which isn’t bad value for a third-round pick. However, he’s far from a gem as a ‘solid at best’ caliber player.

Then there’s Tillery, who was a first-round bust for the Bolts. He played his way onto the bench in Los Angeles and then was released before his rookie contract expired, eventually landing in Las Vegas to play in a rotational role.

Interior Offensive Line

Best Pick: Dan Feeney (2017 Round 3, pick 71)

Worst Pick: Forrest Lamp (2017 Round 2, pick 38)

With Dylan Parham’s flexibility to play guard or center, the two positions are lumped together as one draft need for the Raiders.

This has been another sore spot for Telesco. Feeney was a solid starter for a few years with the Chargers but is far from someone a general manager can hang their hat on. Meanwhile, Lamp was nearly a first-round pick but spent most of his time either injured or on the bench as he started just one season in Los Angeles.

The jury is still out on 2022 first-rounder Zion Johnson, who has been underwhelming during his first two years in the league. While Jamaree Salyer got plenty of praise for being a Day 3 selection and filling in at left tackle as a rookie, he slid inside this past season and struggled.

Right Tackle

Best pick: Trey Pipkins III (2019 Round 3, pick 91)

Worst pick: Brenden Jaimes (2021 Round 5, pick 160)

Similar to quarterback, Telesco doesn't have many misses at right tackle and the “worst pick” in this situation shouldn’t carry much weight, if at all. Jaimes was viewed as a potential swing tackle option coming out of Nebraska but has been a reserve interior offensive lineman in Los Angeles.

The GM has plenty of hits at this spot, though. Pipkins III has been a solid starter for the Chargers over the last two seasons and was a great find as a Day 2 pick from a Division 2 school. D.J. Fluker (2013 Round 1, pick 11) was Telesco’s first selection as a general manager and was a quality starter from 2013 to 2020. Granted, Fluker was a better guard than tackle and is currently on the Raiders’ practice squad.

Also, the Chargers got three years of quality play from Sam Tevi, who was a sixth-round pick in 2017, and Rashawn Slater has been a stud on the left side of the line.

In other words, Telesco has a strong track record of drafting offensive tackles.