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5 Takeaways: Why the Bolts Traded Up for Ladd McConkey


The Chargers are rolling after Day 2 of the 2024 NFL Draft.

Here are five takeaways from Chargers General Manager Joe Hortiz and Chargers Head Coach Jim Harbaugh's joint press conference at Hoag Performance Center, plus video calls with Georgia wide receiver Ladd McConkey and Michigan linebacker Junior Colson.

1. Go get your guy

The Chargers entered Round 2 with the 37th overall pick, meaning they were slated to wait five spots before adding to their roster.

Hortiz and the Bolts front office didn't want to risk it, however, and swung a deal almost right away with the Patriots.

The Chargers sent Nos. 37 and 110 to New England in exchange for Nos. 34 and 137, with the Bolts selecting McConkey just two picks into Round 2.

"We had some calls to move back and we were called to see if we were interested in moving up and we were able to work out the deal. When we were on the clock, we went for it," Hortiz said.

Hortiz and Harbaugh made it clear that adding McConkey was a high priority early in Round 2.

"He was a guy that we targeted," Hortiz said. "He was a guy all the scouts targeted, all the scouts looked at it and all the scouts and coaches loved.

"But yeah, he was a guy that was high up on our list," Hortiz said.

Harbaugh mentioned McConkey's quickness as something that stood out to him right away in his evaluation.

"Love the speed, 4.38 [40-yard dash], but he plays to it," Harbaugh said. "He plays to that 4.38 every single play, you can see it in the way that he rages off of the ball, and once he has the ball in his hands.

"Me and Joe [Hortiz] were talking about him, he's very [Raiders TE] Brock Bowers-like with the way that he gets yards after the catch," Harbaugh added. "Competitor, big-time. Those things. He catches the ball. A terrific route-runner. He has the quickness, he has the speed that is going to be great for our offense. I love the guys that can run in the 4.3s."

McConkey was the third Georgia player to be drafted in 2024, and said the fact the Bolts traded up to add up only added to his excitement.

"That is just a little bit extra motivation," McConkey said. "They want me, they came up and got me, so I'm going to give everything that I have to them and make sure that it is worth it."

2. A QB's best friend

McConkey lit up in his post-pick video call when Justin Herbert's name was mentioned.

"Just watching his game, it comes easy to him," McConkey said. "He can make any and every throw. Excited to get out there, get in rhythm with him, show him what I can do and gain his trust."

That mindset showed up at Georgia as he displayed a connection with whichever quarterback was under center.

"We were talking about it today. We were watching some film on him," Hortiz said. "It's one of the things that pop on film. Just how good he is. How he sets up routes. Like I said, spatial awareness, feel, getting off the ball, understanding the releases, understanding when to change gears. He's precise.

"The quarterback, we talked about it. The quarterback knows where he's going to be. You're going to know," Hortiz added. "That's an outstanding thing to have and to bring to the Chargers. We're looking forward to it."

McConkey scored 14 touchdowns in his Georgia career after being an unheralded recruit.

And you can bet he'll find a way to get open for Herbert, as many draft pundits praised his release off the line and his quickness as a boon to any quarterback.

"I think that I'm very versatile. I can play inside and outside," McConkey said. "A gadget guy that can kind of do a little bit of it all. Just going to go out there, see what my role is with them.

"If they want me to play outside, I'll play outside. If they want me to play inside, I'll do that," McConkey added. "I'm really just excited to get to work, see what they want me to do, then go attack it."

Hortiz added: "He has great feel over the middle of the field. You watch him work versus zone and uncovered up the seam. Just a lot of football intelligence in his play that carries over."

3. All shapes and sizes

McConkey stands at 6-foot and 186 pounds, so he's never going to be the biggest player on the field.

The Chargers new receiver noted that Friday evening but also said that not every NFL receiver needs to be 6-3 and 220 pounds.

"Just looking at the receivers nowadays in the league, I feel like my body type kind of matches up with a lot of them," McConkey said. "There are 6-foot-6, 220 [pound] guys, and then there are 5-foot-10, 180 [pounds].

"I feel like we're kind of all over the place nowadays. It's just different flavors for different people," McConkey added.

The former Georgia standout did miss a handful of games with a back injury in 2023 but McConkey said Friday that he feels "100 percent."

The Bolts, by the way, are surely comfortable with his medicals after trading up for him.

"I know this, our doctors feel great about him," Hortiz said. "He's been pretty durable there. Certainly, he's had some bumps in the road, but he responded and played late this year.

"That says something about his commitment to compete and to the team," Hortiz added. "You see a guy that was most likely coming out [to be drafted] and he's playing in a Bowl game this year. That's impressive to me."

4. The perfect scheme fit

Colson has only been a Charger for a matter of hours but he might know the Bolts defensive playbook better than anyody.

The linebacker, of course, spent the past few years at Michigan with Harbaugh and Chargers Defensive Coordinator Jesse Minter.

Colson on Friday described his emotions on getting to reunite with Minter.

"Playing for him was freaking phenomenal. It was phenomenal," Colson said. "He's one of the smartest guys I know, if not the smartest guy I know.

"To be able to play in that same defense, be able to play in his defense, he's been able to customize and change and create a way to being the No. 1 defense in the country last year," Colson added. "I'm just excited to see where we can continue to grow, and then build with that."

Harbaugh said Minter was "fired up" with the Colson pick, but also noted that there was consensus in the room to select one of his former players, including from Hortiz.

"You're involved. You feel like you have a voice. You're able to give your opinion," Harbaugh said about Hortiz's impact. "It just makes you give more. It makes you work harder. It's a master class of leadership to be able to do that and do what he does.

"It came down to, 'Jesse, who would you rather have? This player or this player?,'" Harbaugh added. "I mean, I'm not in Joe's mind, but what he would have done had it not been the way he [also] wanted it, I hope he would have gone with what [Minter] wants to do because we trust him. I've seen it on display this entire process."

The addition of Colson gives the Chargers more depth to a linebacker room that includes Denzel Perryman, Daiyan Henley, Nick Niemann and Troy Dye.

"I believe that I fit into that [scheme] very easily and very, very well," Colson said. "I think that I'm that guy in the middle that they've been looking for, that guy that can run the defense and call the plays.

"It's very similar, we ran the exact same defense back in college. It's going to be very easy to get in and get to work," Colson added.

5. Looking ahead to Day 3

The Bolts entered Day 2 with eight selections and now have six remaining after adding McConkey and Colson.

The Chargers have one fourth-round pick (No. 105) and a pair of fifth-rounders (Nos. 137 and 140) plus a sixth-round pick (No. 181) and two in the seventh-round (Nos. 225 and 253).

Hortiz said when he was hired that he views every pick to be important as you can fill out key depth for the roster on Day 3.

The draft continues Saturday at 9 a.m. (PT), and Hortiz explained how the Bolts will manage the quick turnaround.

"We'll get in there, scouts, find out who they really have that passion for," Hortiz said. "I already know most of those answers, our scouts have done a phenomenal job throughout the entire process just being open, being honest, voicing their opinions, showing their passion, the players they love and bringing all the information to the table.

"We're going to talk through it again tonight and really just set the board up to attack tomorrow with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind," Hortiz continued. "It's a fun process because you really look at what's left on the board and everyone's board across the league has guys sticking out like a sore thumb. Probably all the boards have half their guys on the board up there.

"What you want to do as scouts and player personnel and coaches, we want to find the guys that we have convictions about at all levels and that's what we're going to do," Hortiz added. "Talk through it, talk through it tonight, talk through it tomorrow, talk through it during the draft as it's going."

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