Introductory press conference of Chargers Head Coach Jim Harbaugh at YouTube Theater in Inglewood
Getty Images

The 2024 NFL Draft is less than a month away, which means it's "talking season." We've seen plenty of rumors that could turn out to be nonsense, like J.J. McCarthy potentially going No. 2 overall, or Malik Nabers being WR1 over Marvin Harrison Jr. Three quarterbacks are expected to come off the board to begin the draft, meaning the Arizona Cardinals and Los Angeles Chargers at No. 4 and No. 5 overall are sitting pretty.

Both franchises already have their quarterbacks of the future, allegedly, meaning they could be the first two teams to select the best players who are not signal-callers. Some may say the draft starts at No. 4 with Arizona, but the Cardinals are widely expected to take a wide receiver to boost a room that has become very thin. That's why I believe the draft actually begins with the Chargers.

What could L.A. do with the No. 5 overall pick? Well, the Chargers are going to have options. In fact, they may be the most fascinating team in the 2024 NFL Draft

Trade down

The Chargers could be that premier trade-down team if the Chicago Bears, Washington Commanders and New England Patriots stand pat. Especially considering the fact that the New York Giants pick right after the Chargers, and they could be in the quarterback mix. There has been noise around Michigan's McCarthy flying up draft boards, and his former head coach in Jim Harbaugh has been amplifying that noise with all his might.

"He's the best quarterback in this draft," Harbaugh said of McCarthy this week. "He plays quarterback the best of all the quarterbacks. He's a winner."

Harbaugh also said McCarthy virtually had the best pro day of all time. 

"I've been to a lot of pro day workouts and watched quarterbacks throw, that was the best I've ever seen a quarterback do at a pro day," Harbaugh said, via Yahoo Sports. "I mean, not only was feet great and the individual drills, but then he started throwing and it was like every throw was right there. I thought our receivers did a great job, too. They all had a great day, but that was the best throwing day I've ever seen, and then to hear coaches and GMs come up to me and say, 'Hey, great job with J.J.'

"Like I predicted, once they were around him, I was hearing the stories about how he is on the board, how he is on the field, the little things. The intangibles. It was absolutely no surprise whatsoever, but there was raving. And it was great to hear, incredible to hear, and I know it was sincere. It was unsolicited, but it was numerous, numerous GMs, numerous head coaches couldn't say enough good things. And it was, you could just see it. His pro day, literally I have never seen a better one."

Harbaugh is saying all of this to support his guy, yes. But he's also saying it with his new franchise in mind -- who could benefit from a team trading up to No. 5 for McCarthy, or for any quarterback that may go there.

In our five most recent CBS Sports NFL mock drafts, just two of our five experts have the Chargers staying at No. 5. Who do they have L.A. selecting? A receiver. 

Wide receiver

The Chargers traded Keenan Allen away to Chicago and released Mike Williams this offseason, so they are absolutely in the market for a receiver. Their room does not look as bad as Arizona's, but L.A. still could take a pass-catcher with its first pick. If Harrison goes fourth, Nabers could go fifth, and vice versa.

CBS Sports has Harrison ranked as the No. 1 prospect in this class regardless of position, as he's a two-time unanimous All-American, and recorded the most receiving yards (2,474) and receiving touchdowns (28) in a two-year span in Ohio State history. No player caught more touchdowns than Harrison over the past two years. However, there has been recent buzz that teams may have Nabers as the No. 1 wideout in this class over Harrison. The LSU product recorded the most receptions (189) and receiving yards (3,003) in program history in 38 games.

Depending on who Arizona takes, that could affect the direction the Chargers go in. Maybe if Harrison falls to No. 5 overall, the Chargers won't be able to stop themselves from taking him. Or ... they could, again, trade the pick. 

Offensive lineman

The Chargers are expected to upgrade the offensive line over the course of the draft, and that could start in the first round. Harbaugh riffed on the value of the offensive line at the league's annual meeting, pointing to the fact that it's the one position group that depends on no other position group to be good, while every other position group relies on the offensive line to be successful. 

The Chargers could add a star offensive tackle early if they wanted to, whether that be at No. 5 overall or with its first pick after a trade down. For example, CBS Sports NFL Draft expert Josh Edwards has the Minnesota Vikings trading up from No. 11 overall to No. 5 overall. At No. 11, Edwards has the Chargers taking Penn State's Olumuyiwa Fashanu, who was a 2023 consensus All-American who allowed zero sacks on 697 career pass-blocking snaps. 

"After trading back from No. 5 overall, Los Angeles lands potentially the best offensive tackle prospect in the draft. Olu Fashanu would theoretically play left tackle and Rashawn Slater would flip to the other side, which is where he spent time at Northwestern."

In this hypothetical trade, the Chargers also secure the No. 23 overall pick, which they use on Texas wide receiver Adonai Mitchell.

The Chargers could also take Taliese Fuaga, the Oregon State tackle who had the highest PFF run-blocking grade (90.9) in the FBS last season, if they wanted to keep Slater on the left side. 

It's also possible the Chargers could have fallen in love with Notre Dame's Joe Alt, who is seen as a lock for the top 10. He is another All-America left tackle who had the highest overall PFF grade by an FBS offensive lineman last season (90.7). Alt allowed just one sack on 740 pass-blocking snaps over the past two seasons, and also started in 33 straight contests before opting out of Notre Dame's most recent bowl game. Could L.A. select him at No. 5 overall?

The Chargers aren't tied to these three options in the first round. They could go any number of ways. L.A. could take a cornerback, for example. CBS Sports NFL Draft expert Ryan Wilson has the Chargers landing Fuaga and Clemson cornerback Nate Wiggins at No. 23 overall after a trade with the Vikings. 

This is why the Chargers are the most fascinating team in the draft. What they decide to do will have major ramifications on the rest of the draft. If they trade down, if they stay put, the player they select -- it all will have ripple effects.