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Chargers' Jim Harbaugh intrigued to have No. 5 overall selection in QB-heavy draft: 'It's an exciting pick'

In Jim Harbaugh's mind, no one has it better than the Los Angeles Chargers in the 2024 NFL Draft. The Chargers pick fifth overall, but it feels like the catbird's seat to Harbaugh in his first draft back in the league in a decade. 

"There's talk of four quarterbacks going in the first four picks. Boy, if that happens, that pick really becomes like the No. 1 pick in the draft," Harbaugh told reporters at the Annual League Meeting. "If four quarterbacks go in the first four picks, that's not like the fifth pick anymore. That's like the No. 1 pick of the draft for teams that have a great quarterback already."

Having Justin Herbert allows the Chargers rare flexibility; able to select the top non-QB if Harbaugh's scenario plays out as he said. But even if, say, three quarterbacks are picked in the first four selections, Harbaugh sees how the possibilities might lay out favorably for his new team -- possibly with a trade down.

"I mean, maybe four quarterbacks don't go in a row -- it's unprecedented that's ever happened," he said. "But maybe there's still another quarterback there when the fifth pick comes around and somebody wants to... again, that'd be like the No. 1 pick. 

"...It's an exciting pick."

There's a certain irony unfolding here, which is that in a perfect world, Harbaugh's quarterback at Michigan could end up dictating what happens with the coach's new team. J.J. McCarthy led the Wolverines to Harbaugh's first national title last season, later declaring early for the draft, and Harbaugh has continued to heap praise on his former QB.

Harbaugh previously has said he thinks McCarthy is the best quarterback in Michigan history. That, of course, includes Tom Brady -- and Harbaugh himself. And now the coach is channeling the praise towards McCarthy's pro potential, saying he's the best quarterback in a strong QB class because McCarthy "plays quarterback the best" of the group.

Harbaugh returned to Ann Arbor, Mich. for the Wolverines' pro day and said what McCarthy did was above all others in the history of pro days.

"The workout J.J. had -- I've been to a lot of pro-day workouts and watched quarterbacks throw -- that's the best I've ever seen a quarterback do at a pro day," Harbaugh said.

He later added: "That was the best throwing day I've ever seen."

It's easy to suggest that Harbaugh is just caping for his former player, as any self-respecting coach would do reflexively. But for those arguing Harbaugh is merely trying to inflate the value of his current draft pick, his praise for McCarthy as a pro prospect has been consistently glowing.

Harbaugh raised eyebrows when he told Colin Cowherd in February that he thought McCarthy would be the top pick in the draft. That might not happen, but it's not an outrageous idea now that McCarthy could bump North Carolina's Drake Maye or LSU's Jayden Daniels out of being the second or third QB selected.

Harbaugh believes McCarthy only helped that possibility with his strong pro-day showing.

"You hear coaches and GMs come up to me and say, 'Hey, great job with J.J,'" Harbaugh said. "Like I predicted, once they were around him, I was hearing the stories about how he was on the board, how he is on the field, the little things, the intangibles. It was absolutely no surprise whatsoever, but there was raving. 

"It was great to hear and incredible to hear, and I know it's sincere. It was unsolicited. There (were) numerous GMs, numerous head coaches who couldn't say enough good things. … You could just see it."

The Bears, Commanders and Patriots, owners of the first three picks, all in need quarterback help this offseason. The Cardinals, picking fourth overall, are going headlong with Kyler Murray and aren't expected to draft a QB in that spot. They're prime candidates to trade down, as are the Chargers at No. 5 overall.

One possibility for the first non-quarterback: Ohio State wideout Marvin Harrison Jr., who could be a candidate for both the Cardinals and Chargers if they stay put. It certainly would be fascinating to see Harbaugh's first pick back in the NFL be a Buckeye, as well as the son of a player with whom Harbaugh played in the NFL.

Harbaugh's return to has been marked by the Chargers needing to shed salary, especially at receiver. They cut Mike Williams and traded Keenan Allen to Chicago, leaving gaping holes at the position. The Chargers also need help elsewhere, coming off a 5-12 season. Trading down is a real possibility.

But there's little doubt that the best possibility for Harbaugh and the Chargers would include Harbaugh's favorite quarterback going to another team inside the top five picks.

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