NFL Draft Winners and Losers: Jim Harbaugh blends old and new ways in 1st Chargers draft

When you're away from the NFL for nine years, the game can pass you by quickly. Nine years is a couple of NFL lifetimes.

Jim Harbaugh is still stuck in his ways a bit, but he showed in the first two days of the NFL Draft that he can also adapt.

The Los Angeles Chargers came into the draft with a big need and a big want. Harbaugh said earlier this offseason that he believes offensive line is the most important position because every position group depends on the line to be good. But offensive line wasn't a glaring need for the Chargers. Receiver was.

The Chargers ended up doing well at both.

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First, they stayed true to Harbaugh's philosophy and took Notre Dame offensive tackle Joe Alt in the first round with the fifth overall pick. The Chargers still needed receivers after letting go of Keenan Allen and Mike Williams this offseason. They addressed that early in the second round by trading up to draft Georgia's Ladd McConkey.

McConkey would have fit just fine in the first round but teams preferred other talented receivers. When McConkey fell to 34th overall, the Chargers traded up three spots to get him and didn't give up much to move up. Justin Herbert should be happy to see McConkey come aboard.

He'll also be happy having Alt to pair with star left tackle Rashawn Slater on the line for the foreseeable future too. Harbaugh believes in starting with a dominant offensive line, and that's not the worst approach.

"I know the question is going to come up, 'What about a weapon?' Offensive linemen, we look at as weapons," Harbaugh told the media on Thursday night. "That group, when we talk about attacking on offense, the offensive line is the tip of the spear."

But the NFL has become even more of a passing game since Harbaugh left the San Francisco 49ers to coach the University of Michigan. And McConkey is the rare slot receiver who can stretch the field. He'll be a great fit with Herbert.

Harbaugh wasn't coming out of the draft without drafting a Michigan player, and he got one with linebacker Junior Colson in the third round. That's a need for the Chargers too, so we'll allow Harbaugh that one.

Harbaugh was a big-time hire by the Chargers, but there's no guarantee he'll have immediate success. The Chargers took on some losses due to salary cap issues. But they rebounded well with a strong draft. Harbaugh has been gone for a while, but it seems he still knows how to build a winner.

Los Angeles Chargers coach Jim Harbaugh added a couple of offensive standouts to start the NFL Draft. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
Los Angeles Chargers coach Jim Harbaugh added a couple of offensive standouts to start the NFL Draft. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Here are the rest of the winners and losers from the second day of the draft (to go with all of the winners and losers from the first day):

Howie Roseman: Get ready for another round of over-the-top praise for Roseman, the Philadelphia Eagles' general manager.

The love for Roseman goes incredibly over the top from NFL analysts, but he is good. He knew what the Eagles' biggest weakness was last year as their season fell apart, and he did a good job fixing it in the draft.

The Eagles added two very good defensive backs with their first two picks. Quinyon Mitchell from Toledo was the CB1 in the class for many analysts and the Eagles grabbed him with the 22nd pick. Then in the second round the Eagles pounced when Iowa cornerback Cooper DeJean fell and traded up to take him 40th overall. That should help fix a secondary that was awful for most of last season.

You'll probably read that Roseman cured world hunger over this draft as everyone goes out of their way to congratulate him, but it's undeniable that the Eagles made a couple of good moves to attack a clear weakness.

Defensive players: On Friday night, the defensive players struck back. There had to be some cornerbacks to cover all those first-round receivers, and some defensive linemen to battle the offensive linemen already off the board.

After the first two picks of the second round were receivers, 13 of the next 16 picks were on the defensive side of the ball. It had to even out a bit after 23 offensive players, a record for the common era of the draft, were taken in the first round.

Defensive tackle was particularly popular in the second round, with seven being taken. There were four straight cornerbacks taken, and seven overall in the second round. Add in one off-ball linebacker (Texas A&M's Edgerrin Cooper was the only one in the first two rounds as ILB continues to become the devalued running back of the defense), three safeties and two edge rushers, and there were 20 defensive players taken in the second round. Defensive players still matter, it's just that there were far more elite offensive players in this year's class.

Risk-taking Indianapolis Colts: The Colts have typically been a fairly safe team, when it comes to free agency and the draft. They look for a particular player and rarely stray from their formula. But eventually, to make a big move you have to swing for more than a single.

The Colts took some well-timed gambles on players who could pay off big. In the first round they took UCLA pass rusher Laiatu Latu, who briefly retired from football due to a neck injury. If Latu stays healthy, he could become the elite pass rusher that the Colts need.

On Friday the Colts grabbed Texas receiver Adonai Mitchell, who slipped to the second round because he needs some refinement in his game and some reported issues with his attitude. But Mitchell’s talent is undeniable and he could be an excellent piece along with quarterback Anthony Richardson (who wasn't exactly a foolproof first-round pick last year either) and receiver Michael Pittman Jr.

The Colts haven't taken many chances over the past few years in the draft or free agency. They chased some big upside with their first two picks. Nothing wrong with that.

San Francisco 49ers and their WR drama: The message from the 49ers this offseason should have been a team that had all of its key players returning and were ready to take another shot at a Super Bowl.

Instead, the chatter has been about them losing star receivers.

Brandon Aiyuk wasn't pleased he hasn't gotten a long-term deal and while the 49ers deny he has requested a trade, there has been a lot of chatter about him possibly being on the move. Then on Friday, there were rumors that teams were asking about receiver Deebo Samuel in a trade.

“I know what’s going on,” Samuel told The Athletic's Dianna Russini, “but it is what it is. I’m good staying with them. I’m chilling.”

The longer the draft went on, the more unlikely a trade for either star receiver seemed. But it's still a distraction at best, and at worst the 49ers will move one of their best players even though they're trying to make a Super Bowl run. That's not the best news for a championship favorite.

The Los Angeles Rams' impatience: The Rams finally had a first-round pick in this draft for the first time since 2016. They had to do something impulsive to balance that out.

The Rams got antsy in the second round. They traded a second-round pick (52nd overall), a fifth-round pick (155th) and a 2025 second-round pick to move up to No. 39 and draft defensive tackle Braden Fiske. In a second round that had multiple defensive tackles picked, that seemed like a panic move even though the Rams certainly needed defensive tackle help following Aaron Donald's retirement.

Fiske could work out. He is talented and an athletic interior defender. But it was a steep price to pay. That's nothing new for the Rams.

Running backs: The wait for the first running back to be selected was the second-longest in the common era of the draft. Jonathon Brooks of Texas stopped the drought when the Carolina Panthers took him with the 46th overall pick.

And then Brooks was the only running back to go in the first two rounds.

Trey Benson was picked with the 66th overall pick by the Arizona Cardinals in the third round, but running backs were still mostly forgotten in the first two days of the draft.

There are exceptions to the new rule that running backs are devalued, like Bijan Robinson last year, but the position's stature isn't growing. Part of the lack of running backs taken in the first two days of the draft was this class didn't have many elite talents. It's also possible there aren't as many elite talents at the position because it's not the featured spot it used to be.