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Evaluating QB prospects starts in earnest for Chargers at combine

Lamar Jackson fits the profile the Chargers are looking for in a duel-threat quarterback. Andy Lyons/Getty Images

COSTA MESA, Calif. -- As Los Angeles Chargers general manager Tom Telesco likes to say, his scouting staff already began to do the work on this year’s quarterback class back in September -- reviewing film, talking to coaches on college campuses and watching them on game day in person.

However, this week’s NFL scouting combine is the first time Telesco can evaluate all of those prospects side-by-side as they compete in on-field drills, along with conducting in-person interviews and collecting the all-important medical exam results.

In short, this week in Indianapolis NFL teams will begin to put together a more comprehensive picture of what players they could potentially draft in April.

Of course, Telesco has not drafted a quarterback during his tenure with the Chargers since taking Brad Sorensen in the seventh round of the 2013 draft. With Philip Rivers turning 37 years old in December, whether the Chargers will select the fiery franchise quarterback’s eventual successor is one of the storylines to watch for the Bolts this week.

Telesco is tentatively scheduled to talk to reporters at 11 a.m ET, followed by head coach Anthony Lynn.

Finding Rivers’ replacement: The top four quarterbacks -- Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, Josh Allen and Baker Mayfield -- will likely be off the board if the Chargers stay put and select at No. 17.

That leaves the Bolts potentially taking a flyer on the electric playmaker Lamar Jackson (a player that fits the profile Lynn is looking for in a duel-threat quarterback), or waiting until the second round to pick someone like Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph.

Richmond’s Kyle Lauletta or Western Kentucky’s Mike White also could make some sense as mid-round prospects.

The Chargers already gave up their seventh-round selection in a trade last year to secure the services of Cardale Jones. And Telesco said he liked how Jones developed last year. So maybe the Chargers are content to go with Jones for another season and bring in another veteran to back up Rivers should they not bring back pending free-agent reserve QB Kellen Clemens.

The Chargers have closely evaluated quarterbacks in the draft for the last two years, and that will not change in 2018.

Finding a kicker: While quarterback will be a hot topic for the Chargers, finding a top-notch kicker remains a top priority this offseason after finishing a league-worst 67 percent on field goals in 2017. The Chargers used four different kickers.

The Chargers have two young kickers already on their roster in Nick Rose and Roberto Aguayo, but likely will add a veteran to that group. This year’s rookie class also has a few talented kickers coming out, including Auburn’s Daniel Carlson, Florida’s Eddy Pineiro and Nebraska’s Drew Brown.

Keeping Melvin Gordon in the fold: The Chargers can pick up running back Melvin Gordon’s fifth-year option for the 2019 season and likely will do so sometime this year.

Selected No. 15 overall in the 2015 draft, Gordon rushed for over 1,000 yards last season for the first time. His 24 total touchdowns over the last two seasons is No. 3 in the NFL among running backs.

The Chargers also need to get a contract extension done with talented cornerback Casey Hayward, who enters the final year of a three-year, $15 million deal.

Telesco likely will make time to meet with agent Drew Rosenhaus concerning his client Tre Boston, who is the team’s top pending free agent.

Boston bet on himself last season, signing a one-year, $900,000 deal and delivering his best season as a pro, leading the Chargers with five interceptions.

Boston was a vocal leader on the field who approached his work with professionalism. However, it will be interesting to see what the Chargers do with Boston if his price tag gets too steep. The Chargers have not had stability at the free-safety position since Eric Weddle left two years ago and need a long-term solution at a key position in defensive coordinator Gus Bradley’s scheme.