Jim Harbaugh confirms shocking plans for Chargers' offensive line

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The LA Chargers added to the trenches in the first round of the 2024 NFL Draft, taking Notre Dame offensive tackle Joe Alt with the fifth overall pick. It was not the expected selection for the Bolts but it is not hard to see why the Chargers fell in love with him.

With the selection of Alt, many fans assumed last season's starting right tackle, Trey Pipkins, would be benched as an expensive swing tackle. After all, Pipkins has only played tackle up to this point in his career and there was no chance he would beat out Alt or Rashawn Slater on the starting offensive line.

That does not appear to be the case after all. Jim Harbaugh teased the idea of Pipkins still being on the starting offensive line after selecting Alt and he all but committed to that being the case prior to Chargers minicamp. While there is still plenty of time for things to change, Harbaugh revealed what the starting offensive line currently looks like for the Bolts:

Chargers' starting offensive line will include Trey Pipkins after all

The big surprise here is Pipkins being penciled in as the starting right guard. Pipkins has not played guard at all in his NFL career and his skill set does not seem to translate well to guard. The former third-round pick has not necessarily been a dynamic run blocker in his career, and that seemingly goes against what Harbaugh wants to do.

That being said, this is completely based on how Pipkins has played in the past in previous schemes. The six-foot-six offensive lineman is obviously doing well enough for the coaching staff to entrust him as the starting right guard. The team is not going to blindly just start him for the sake of it.

This does raise an interesting question, though, that is admittedly completely with the benefit of hindsight. With the Chargers obviously thinking Pipkins is a starting-caliber offensive lineman, it is worth asking if the team would have changed its first-round plans if it knew Jackson Powers-Johnson was going to fall to the second round.

It seemed extremely unlikely JPJ, who was the best center in the class, was going to fall to the Bolts in the second round. But he did. In theory, the Chargers could have addressed wide receiver with Malik Nabers in the first round to then select JPJ in the second round.

Center was a much bigger issue for the Chargers last season than right tackle was. In this theorized reality, the Chargers would have had a starting offensive line of Slater, Zion Johnson, JPJ, Bradley Bozeman and Trey Pipkins while also having the benefit of a franchise wide receiver.

Of course, there is no way of knowing if the Chargers would have done this if they knew for sure that JPJ was falling to the second round, and there is still a chance that they loved Alt so much that the team would have drafted him anyway.