Harbaugh likes Chargers being in the fifth overall position going into the NFL draft

COSTA MESA, Calif. (AP) — In Jim Harbaugh’s estimation, no one has it better than the Los Angeles Chargers going into the NFL draft.

The Chargers have the fifth overall pick on April 25. With an expected run on quarterbacks at the top of the draft, the Bolts will field plenty of calls from teams looking to move up.

Or, they can remain in the spot and have their pick of the best non-QB prospects since they already have Justin Herbert.

“There’s going to be a great player at five. There’s talk of four quarterbacks going in the first four picks, and if that happens, then that pick becomes like the number one pick in the draft for teams that have a great quarterback already,” Harbaugh said during last month’s league meetings. “Maybe four quarterbacks don’t go in a row, and there’s another quarterback there when the fifth pick comes around. With the calculator, it wouldn’t be like the fifth pick anymore.”

Teams may be looking to move up to draft J.J. McCarthy, who won the national championship last season with Harbaugh and Michigan.

The most recent time a team traded its fifth overall pick on draft day was 2012, when Jacksonville sent its first- and fourth-round picks to Tampa Bay. The Buccaneers moved down only two spots to seventh in the first round. Harbaugh’s comments signaled, though, that he and general manager Joe Hortiz would be looking for more than that.

Hortiz said before the league meetings that other teams looking to move up have started to gauge his interest.

“I’m open to all options. I’m not locked into any one spot,” he said. “Everyone’s saying there could be up to six quarterbacks in the first round. It’s just a unique year.”

Hortiz learned how to navigate the draft board under Ozzie Newsome and Eric DeCosta in Baltimore. Since 2019, when DeCosta was the Ravens’ general manager and Hortiz the director of player personnel, Baltimore has made eight draft weekend trades, including three in the first round. Trades in 2021 and ’22 netted Baltimore an additional first-round selection.


After going 5-12, which led to the in-season firings of coach Brandon Staley and general manager Tom Telesco, the Chargers have a pick in the top seven for the fourth time since 2016. Only the Giants (six), Jets (five) and Jaguars (five) have had more.


The Chargers need a dynamic wide receiver after Mike Williams’ release and Keenan Allen’s trade to Chicago. Joshua Palmer is the most experienced player in the group, entering his fourth year, while Quentin Johnston, last year’s first-round pick, struggled in his rookie season. Derius Davis provides some depth but is the primary kickoff and punt returner.

Ohio State’s Marvin Harrison Jr. could be gone by the time the Bolts go on the clock, but Washington’s Rome Odunze and LSU’s Malik Nabers would be intriguing. If the Chargers elected to trade down, Texas’ Xavier Worthy, who set the combine record in the 40-yard dash at 4.21 seconds, would be on the board.


With Harbaugh wanting to be more physical, the offensive line needs some depth. Right tackle remains a concern and area of need after Trey Pipkins’ struggles as a starter two of the past three years.

“If I ask you what position group depends on no other position group to be good, but every other position group depends on them to be good? Offensive line. They’re not relying on any other position group to be good. They go out, and they’re good, but every other position group relies on them,” Harbaugh said.

Notre Dame's Joe Alt could be plugged in immediately at right tackle, but Oregon State's Taliese Fuaga offers versatility by being able to play all spots on the line.


Cornerback is the weakest position on the defense. The Chargers signed Kristian Fulton, who started his past 35 games with the Tennessee Titans, but Asante Samuel Jr., a second-round pick in 2021, is going into the final year of his rookie contract and has been inconsistent.

The defensive line doesn't have a lot of experience or players adept at stopping the run.


Quarterback is locked down with Herbert going into his fifth season. Safety is also set with Derwin James and Alohi Gilman as the starters.