Chargers Ignore Biggest Need By Drafting Joe Alt at No. 5

Los Angeles passed on getting Justin Herbert a receiver to select a right tackle.
Jan 1, 2022; Glendale, Arizona, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish offensive lineman Joe Alt (76)
Jan 1, 2022; Glendale, Arizona, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish offensive lineman Joe Alt (76) / Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
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The Los Angeles Chargers were on the clock with the fifth pick in the 2024 NFL draft and had a chance to fill their biggest need at wideout with two elite players on the board. Instead, they swerved, selecting Notre Dame offensive tackle Joe Alt. It was a puzzling decision, but not shocking if you know anything about new head coach Jim Harbaugh.

This offseason, the Chargers jettisoned both of their top wide receivers. The uber-talented but oft-injured Mike Williams was released, while perennial Pro Bowler Keenan Allen was traded to the Chicago Bears. Star quarterback Justin Herbert was left with a receiving group led by Joshua Palmer and last year's first-round disappointment, Quentin Johnston. That's a problem, and adding pass catchers should have been Los Angeles' biggest priority.

The draft board fell well for the Chargers as LSU's Malik Nabers and Washington's Rome Odunze were still available when they got on the clock. Both are viewed as high-ceiling difference-makers at wide receiver. Instead, Harbaugh and rookie general manager Joe Hortiz selected Alt, widely regarded as the top left tackle in the draft. There's just one problem: the Chargers already have an All-Pro caliber left tackle.

Rashawn Slater was named second team All-Pro as a rookie in 2021 and, after missing the 2022 season, was excellent again in 2023. That means Alt will almost certainly be moving to right tackle, a position far less valuable than the left side. Guys fit for the right side of the line can generally be found later in the draft. On top of that, the team's incumbent right tackle Trey Pipkins III carries a cap hit of $8.75 million after signing a three-year, $21.75 million deal last offseason. That's not a massive amount of money, but he just became a very expensive backup on a team that had to make several big moves due to salary cap issues.

None of this is to say Alt will be bad. In fact, he's projected to be a really good player. But the draft isn't just about adding talent, it's also about filling needs. Tackle wasn't the Chargers' biggest need, wide receiver was.

This shouldn't shock anyone though. Harbaugh tends to play a smash mouth style of football, and hiring Greg Roman as his offensive coordinator telegraphed that's what he wanted to do. But with Herbert under center, it feels like a waste not to find him weapons in the passing game.

The Chargers know their biggest deficiency was at wide receiver. They elected to pass over that to select a right tackle. Time will tell if this was a smart decision.


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Ryan Phillips

RYAN PHILLIPS

Ryan Phillips is a Senior Writer on the Breaking & Trending News Team at Sports Illustrated. Ryan has worked in digital media since 2009, spending eight years at The Big Lead before joining the SI team in 2024. He also co-hosts The Assembly Call Podcast about Indiana Hoosiers basketball and previously worked at Bleacher Report. Ryan is a proud San Diego native and a graduate of Indiana University’s journalism school.