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5 Takeaways: How the Chargers Crushed the 2024 NFL Draft


The Chargers made a splash in the 2024 Draft by adding nine players over the past three days.

Here are five takeaways from Chargers General Manager Joe Hortiz and Chargers Assistant General Manager Chad Alexander's joint press conference at Hoag Performance Center:

1. Hortiz recaps 1st draft

Hortiz could breath a little sigh of relief Saturday night now that his first draft as a GM was in the books.

Hortiz was hired in late January after spending 26 seasons in Baltimore. But there was a smile on his face as he recapped his first draft with the Bolts.

"Thankfulness for the opportunity for John and Dean [Spanos] giving me a chance," Hortiz said. "Thankfulness to Chad and all the scouts, the coaching staff. My family, I miss them dearly.

"That's probably the feeling I have," Hortiz continued. "We made the first pick and someone asked me, 'How does it feel?' It felt the same to me because I've been a part of it so many times.

"But probably at the end today, it was like, 'Wow, we did it.' There was an excitement to it," Hortiz added. "But it's what I was hired to do."

Make no mistake about it, Hortiz and his staff crushed the 2024 NFL Draft.

They nabbed the No. 1 offensive tackle in Joe Alt plus a pair of players on Day 2 (Ladd McConkey and Junior Colson) who each could have went a round higher than they did.

And the Chargers added six players on Day 3 who fill key roster needs for both now and the future, all while the Bolts didn't sacrifice any future draft capital.

"I'm really excited the way it went," Hortiz said.

"The opportunity to take the players we took, each time we were just excited to take every one of them," Hortiz added. "I really believe we made our team better."

Alexander said it was "outstanding" to watch Hortiz work his craft in recent weeks, a process that was on full display during the draft.

"It was so fun watching him grow in this role and his natural leadership come through," Alexander said. "Really just getting the best out of everybody."

Hortiz noted the importance of sticking to the process on Day 3, as Rounds 4 through 7 are where teams build depth on championship rosters.

"That's where the scouts and coaches really do their work," Hortiz said. "Everyone has their mock drafts on the first and second and third rounds. And honestly, you could pick 36 or 37 players on Day 1 and you'll get 32 of them right.

"But Day 3 is when the information is not as readily available and that's where you trust your scouts," Hortiz added. "Our scouts did a great job knowing the players and identifying the ones that can help us."

All in all, the Bolts added nine players at six different position groups to make up the Bolts 2024 draft class.

"These players fit the Chargers profile, and we really believe all nine of these guys do," Hortiz said. "You want high-character players, you want highly competitive players, passionate players, intelligent, durable, tough. Guys that care about each other. And I can really say that about every one of them.

"We had the blue star that we brought with us here ... we drafted three of them,"Hortiz continued. "We don't got a bunch of them, each scout gets one. They put it on a guy and we were able to take three of them.

"Frankly, all nine of these players can be blue star-type players, but we're limited in the number we can give out so you pick one, put it on," Hortiz added. "That's a real positive thing for us."

2. Triple dipping at WR

The Bolts closed out the draft with a pair of seventh-round wide receivers in USC's Brenden Rice (No. 225) and Michigan's Cornelius Johnson (No. 253).

Add in second-round wide receiver Ladd McConkey, whom the Bolts traded up for in the second round, and a third of the Chargers draft class are pass catchers.

Hortiz recently said he expected the Bolts to add to that position group. They just happened to do it three times in three days.

"I mean, we drafted three, so I definitely feel like we got a lot deeper there," Hortiz said. "I've talked about depth for our team from the beginning, that's one of the goals. I feel like we got deeper there."

The trio of rookies will now link up with a room that includes Joshua Palmer, Quentin Johnston, Derius Davis and Simi Fehoko.

"I think the group that exists is going to go out and compete and challenge each other and try to win for the Chargers," Hortiz said. "If we feel like we can add a player to any group on this team that helps us do those things, we're going to add them. It doesn't matter the position."

Rice is the son of Hall of Famer Jerry Rice, who holds NFL all-time records in catches, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns.

Rice was a 2023 Second-Team All-Pac-12 honoree after leading the Trojans with 12 receiving touchdowns.

Johnson was an Honorable Mention All-Big Ten honoree in 2023 as he played in all 15 games with 14 starts. He tallied 47 catches for 604 yards and a touchdown.

He helped Michigan win a national title under Chargers Head Coach Jim Harbaugh.

"We really love both of those guys. We love them as players," Alexander said. "First of all, they both have NFL bodies, they look like NFL receivers, extremely productive, guys that are tough, they got the right mindset.

"Brenden has a lot of explosive plays down the field, long touchdown production. Arizona State, UCLA, Stanford, these games, he can really stretch the field vertically," Alexander continued. "He does a lot of things that you really, really, like and he blocks and does a really good job.

"Then Cornelius, same thing. Really productive, tough-minded individual. Might be the best blocking receiver in the draft, or certainly one of them," Alexander added. "He gets after it. It's great to bring those two guys in and have them compete with the rest of the group."

3. Eboigbe offers upside

Hortiz revealed that that Chargers fourth-round pick Justin Eboigbe caught their eye back in the fall.

And the interest in him only grew after they met with him at the 2024 NFL Scouting Combine.

"He's a guy that myself and a number of our scouts really liked," Hortiz said. "I think everyone who [scouted] him, we had basically a third-round grade on him. Maybe even a few second-round grades sprinkled in there."

Yes, Hortiz and the Bolts are aware Eboigbe missed most of the 2022 season with a neck injury. But they felt more than fine taking him at No. 105 overall.

"That's where we trust our medical team," Hortiz said. "We felt good about it."

The 23-year-old Eboigbe is listed at 6-foot-4 and 297 pounds.

Eboigbe was a 2023 First-Team All-SEC selection after tallying 63 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss and 7.0 sacks in 14 games.

"When you watch his film, he does everything right. He plays the defensive line position how we want it done," Hortiz said.

He later added: "The scouts that went in there in October, he didn't rise from October to now. They threw it on him then. He just got realized between now and then."

Alexander, who said Eboigbe offers versatility up front, added: "Really impressive Combine interview. He gets it, he understands football. It's not going to be a problem for him to align in different positions."

4. A pair of 5th-round DBs

After not addressing the secondary on Day 1 or 2, the Bolts doubled dipped at that group in the fifth round.

Maryland's Tarheeb Still was the pick at No. 137 while Notre Dame's Cam Hart was added at No. 140.

Still was a 2023 Second-Team All-Big Ten selection and tied for sixth in the FBS with five interceptions.

Hortiz said Still can make an impact in multiple spots in the secondary.

"I think when you look at a corner, nickel flexibility is a bonus. That's a plus," Hortiz said. "If they're just an outside guy, that's great, if they're a nickel that's great.

"But a guy that can do both like him, that's something you really value," Hortiz added.

Hart, meanwhile, is projected to be an outside cornerback at at 6-foot-3 and 202 pounds.

A 2023 team captain for Notre Dame, Hart tallied 21 tackles (15 solo) to go along with 3.0 tackles for loss, four pass breakups, three forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.

He did not allow a touchdown reception in 308 coverage snaps in 2023, according to Pro Football Focus.

"The traits are outstanding," Hortiz said. "He's highly competitive, he can challenge all throws when he's in position, length to recover, speed to recover."

5. Vidal adds punch in backfield

Given how much the Bolts have talked this offseason about juicing up their run game, it only made sense to add a running back in the draft.

That was the case in Round 6 when they added Troy running back Kimani Vidal.

"He can carry the rock,"Hortiz said "He did it very well during his career there.

"He's got excellent vision, burst, contact balance, strength," Hortiz added. "He's not a tall back but he's not a small back. I think he's 215 pounds so he runs through arm tackles and can make guys miss. Take a hit, stay on his feet."

A 2023 Third-Team All-American by The Associated Press, Vidal was also the 2023 Sun Belt Offensive Player of the Year.

He rushed for 1,661 yards on 297 carries and racked up the second-most rushing yards in the country. He also topped the 100-yard mark seven times and rushed for 200-plus yards three times in 2023. Vidal added 14 rushing touchdowns, too.

Vidal played in 48 career games at Troy, rushing for 4,010 yards and 33 total touchdowns.

Hortiz also praised Vidal's willingness in pass protection, too.

"When you watch him block, it's impressive," Hortiz said. "He'll throw it up in there against a blitzing linebacker."

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