What to expect from the Chargers' first draft under Harbaugh and Hortiz

What are the Chargers' early impressions of Jim Harbaugh? (1:44)

Kris Rhim reports on the Chargers beginning offseason workouts with new coach Jim Harbaugh. (1:44)

LOS ANGELES -- Since the Los Angeles Chargers hired coach Jim Harbaugh and general manager Joe Hortiz in February, the Chargers staff has made each media appearance somewhat of a sales pitch to the world about how great the running offense will be.

There's running game coordinator and tight ends coach Andy Bischoff, who said the Chargers are an OL-centric team, one where offensive linemen are the superstars and everyone else will "fall in line."

Or offensive coordinator Greg Roman, the creator of one of the best rushing offenses in NFL history as the former OC of the Baltimore Ravens (2019-22), who asked reporters in February, "Can you imagine Justin Herbert with a great running game?"

Then there's the way Harbaugh describes linemen.

"It's like a fist," Harbaugh said of offensive line play, curling his fingers into a fist as he spoke. "There's five of 'em: one, two, three, four, five playing as one."

Combine these comments with the innumerable ones from Hortiz and players across the team, including running back Gus Edwards, that boast about L.A.'s rushing potential, and many have the Chargers pegged to select a lineman with the No. 5 pick in the NFL draft.

But the Chargers are open to trading out of that spot for the right price. And if they stay put, Harbaugh and Hortiz's history doesn't suggest that the Chargers will be determined to take a lineman, despite the organization's public affection for the position.

"I don't place an increased importance on any position other than, obviously, the quarterback position, which we're in good shape here," Hortiz said. "We have always fallen back in Baltimore to the best player available and that's what we're going to do here in L.A. We're going to take the best player available because every position is important to help win."

The Chargers already employ one of the league's better tackles in Rashawn Slater. But L.A.'s starting right tackle, Trey Pipkins III, has been inconsistent throughout his first five seasons.

Harbaugh was in a similar position in his first NFL stint. When he joined the 49ers in 2011, the team already had found its long-term left tackle in Joe Staley and left guard in Mike Iupati. The rest of the line featured more middling players.

But Harbaugh's 49ers never drafted an offensive lineman in the first round. Instead, they chose linebacker Aldon Smith (2011), wide receiver A.J. Jenkins (2012), safety Eric Reid (2013) and safety Jimmie Ward (2014).

Though Harbaugh's history sheds some light on what the Bolts might do in the draft, he won't have the final say. That responsibility will be on Hortiz.

When Harbaugh took the job in February, the power dynamic between him and the Chargers' general manager was one of the biggest questions about his tenure. In San Francisco, tension with the front office led to Harbaugh parting ways with the team a year before the end of his contract.

"I really want to be Robin to his Batman in the offseason, then when it turns around to the season, I'll be Batman and he'll be Robin," Harbaugh said at his introductory news conference in February. "We'll be the Caped Crusaders, man."

Before joining the Chargers, Hortiz spent 26 years in the Ravens' personnel department, and he was named the director of player personnel in 2019. Though Hortiz never made the final decisions, he will lean on the Ravens' best-player-available process in his first draft.

For the Ravens, the first-round pick has often landed at wide receiver. The Ravens have drafted six first-round receivers, the most of any position group, in their franchise history. This year's draft has been described by analysts as a class with more NFL-ready players than in years past.

Still, selecting the right player in a talented group is paramount, a lesson Hortiz learned in Baltimore.

Baltimore's first-round picks show the franchise's commitment to receivers, but also reflect how often it chose a player who didn't play to the level of a first-rounder, leaving the team with a continuing need. The Ravens have never had a player selected to the Pro Bowl as a receiver.

"Look, we're trying to add depth. Certainly, there are some positions that we don't 'need,' but you're one play away from needing a position," Hortiz said. "If you look at it based on need, you're never just one player away, ever. ... When you get a chance to add a great player, you add them. That's how we're going to approach it."

There is also the chance that the Chargers trade out of No. 5 to a team such as the Minnesota Vikings, who might offer two first-round picks. In that scenario, the Chargers could select a lineman and a receiver.

The draft begins Thursday.