Jim Harbaugh Has Unique Take on Chargers' First Round Pick

L.A.'s new head coach has an optimistic outlook on the team's draft position.
Jim Harbaugh
Jim Harbaugh / Ronald Martinez/GettyImages
In this story:

The Los Angeles Chargers hit the reset button this offseason. They traded away Keenan Allen. They released Mike Williams and let Austin Ekeler walk away. The biggest change, of course, came in the form of Jim Harbaugh's hiring. The Chargers were the NFL team that finally reeled in this Harbaugh brother, who has long been flirting with leaving the college game. He won a national title at Michigan in January before finally deciding to head back to the pros to coach Justin Herbert.

Aside from the presence of a great young quarterback, Harbaugh doesn't inherit the best situation. As noted above, the franchise had to jettison talent this offseason in order to balance its cap sheet. Right now Herbert's top receiver remaining on the roster is 2023 first-round pick Quentin Johnston, who disappointed as a rookie. Fortunately the Chargers are in a great position to acquire high-end talent in this year's NFL Draft. Los Angeles will pick fifth overall and are one of the few teams in the top-10 that does not need a quarterback.

Harbaugh believes this gives them options aplenty, to the extent that the team effectively has the first overall pick in his eyes.

"There's talk of four quarterbacks going in the first four picks," Harbaugh said last week at the NFL Annual League Meeting. "If that happens, then that pick really becomes like the No. 1 pick in the draft.

"If four quarterbacks go in the first four picks, that's not like the fifth pick anymore, that's like the No. 1 pick in the draft for teams that have a great quarterback already," Harbaugh added.

Harbaugh's alternative ways of thinking have been on display early in his tenure as the Chargers' head coach. Earlier this week he declared his new job the best he's ever had, mere months into the gig. We'd probably all be happier if we lived in Jim Harbaugh's world.

In regards to his unique take on LA's draft position -- he could end up being dead-on. The first three picks in the draft will almost certainly be quarterbacks. Caleb Williams will go first, likely followed by Jayden Daniels and Drake Maye in some order. The questions start in that No. 4 spot. The Arizona Cardinals are slotted there and, like Los Angeles, do not need a signal caller with Kyler Murray under contract. However, they are in a prime spot to trade down and accumulate picks because JJ McCarthy is gaining serious momentum as a top five draft pick.

It is realistic to expect somebody, like the Minnesota Vikings, to trade up to No. 4 and take Harbaugh's college quarterback. At which point the Chargers will be sitting pretty at No. 5 overall and can pick any one of the best non-quarterback prospects available. That's an enviable position to be in. There are several excellent wide receiver and offensive line prospects to choose from. Given how barren the team's roster is outside of Herbert, it'll be hard to go wrong with either because any choice will result in a talent boost for the team.

Of course, things might not shake out that way. A lot can change between now and the first round on April 25. But the Chargers are in a good spot regardless of how the first four picks unfold.

Liam McKeone is a writer at The Big Lead.


Published
Liam McKeone

LIAM MCKEONE

Liam McKeone is a Senior Writer for the Breaking & Trending News Team at Sports Illustrated. In addition to his role as a writer, he collaborates with other teams across Minute Media to help define his team’s content strategy. He has been in the industry as a content creator since 2017, and prior to joining SI in 2024, Liam worked for NBC Sports Boston and The Big Lead. In addition to his work as a writer, he has hosted the Press Pass Podcast covering sports media and The Big Stream covering pop culture. A graduate of Fordham University, Liam is always up for a good debate and enjoys loudly arguing about sports, rap music, books, and video games. Liam has been a member of the National Sports Media Association (NSMA) since 2020.