NFL execs think Los Angeles Chargers’ Jim Harbaugh is using wild tactics to influence 2024 NFL Draft

Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

After winning a national championship with the Michigan Wolverines, Jim Harbaugh brought a significant number of his coaches with him to the Los Angeles Chargers. While he won’t be taking quarterback J.J. McCarthy with him to California, some around the NFL seem to believe Harbaugh might be using his former quarterback to influence the 2024 NFL Draft.

Harbaugh has been raving about McCarthy for months. Appearing at the NFL league meetings, the Chargers head coach said McCarthy is the best quarterback in the 2024 NFL Draft.

Related: 2024 NFL Draft QB rankings

“I think he plays quarterback the best of any quarterback in the draft. He’s incredible. So, big market, small market. Cold weather, hot weather, it won’t matter.”

Los Angeles Chargers HC Jim Harbaugh on J.J. McCarthy

The Chargers’ coach went back to Ann Arbor recently for Michigan’s Pro Day. While he was there to support all his former players trying to impress NFL teams, he also made it clear that McCarthy was the biggest standout. In fact, he went as far to say it was the best performance he’s ever seen by a quarterback at a pro day.

Related: Los Angeles Chargers mock draft 2024

“I’ve been to a lot of pro day workouts and watched quarterbacks – that’s the best I’ve ever seen a quarterback do at a pro day.”

Jim Harbaugh on J.J. McCarthy’s Pro Day performance

This is far from the first time Harbaugh has heaped praise on McCarthy. He’s repeatedly compared him to his former quarterback Andrew Luck, suggesting the Wolverines’ signal-caller is just as good of a prospect. For context, Luck is widely viewed to be one of the best NFL Draft prospects ever.

Related: 2024 NFL Draft order, picks by team

However, despite his non-stop glowing reviews and over-the-top comments about McCarthy as a player and prospect, Harbaugh isn’t considering him with the fifth overall pick. Los Angeles is firmly committed to Justin Herbert, which is a factor playing into a belief held around the league by some evaluators.

How Jim Harbaugh could be trying to influence the NFL Draft

Jim Harbaugh, J.J. McCarthy
Credit: Robert Goddin-USA TODAY Sports

McCarthy has been one of the biggest names during the pre-draft process. Once projected in NFL mock drafts to be taken towards the end of Round 1, there’s now buzz that the Washington Commanders could use the second overall pick on McCarthy.

Related: Los Angeles Chargers GM reveals draft priority

Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports took an in-depth look at the situation, speaking to scouts, general managers and executives around the NFL. The piece focuses on McCarthy’s draft stock, but it also highlights what some evaluators believe could be McCarthy’s ulterior motive beyond hyping up his former player.

Robinson wrote that “quite a few evaluators” are pointing at Harbaugh as the reason behind all the pre-draft buzz surrounding the Wolverines’ quarterback. Nearly every evaluator the senior NFL reporter spoke with pointed to Harbaugh’s persistent praise of McCarthy and said the reactions around the league went beyond eliciting eye-rolls, with some viewing all of this as a tactic by Harbaugh to influence the NFL Draft.

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One NFL evaluator who has been around the league for years noted that the Chargers don’t need a quarterback and everyone that gets taken before the fifth overall pick is a win for Harbaugh. Another believes there could certainly be an ulterior motive behind Harbaugh’s comments.

“There definitely could be a little bit of an ulterior motive to get someone pushed to him, for sure. That would be a Harbaugh type move. There’s a plan there, I would say. Because they’re sitting there like, all right, if top four are QBs, we get our pick of whatever the hell we want. They’re probably in the best position of any team up there, because now the first four probably are going to be quarterbacks.”

Anonymous NFL executive on Jim Harbaugh hyping up J.J.McCarthy

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As another NFL executive highlighted in his conversation with Robinson, Harbaugh is specifically hyping up McCarthy whenever there is a microphone around.

“He’s definitely been pumping [McCarthy] a lot. It seems like he’s doing it every time he sits down with anyone. Which I’m sure that’s what most coaches would say about their guy who wins a national championship and has that [27-1] record as a starter. But it’s definitely convenient that McCarthy going in those top four picks is really a best-case scenario for the Chargers, too. I do think there’s something to that, too.”

Anonymous NFL evaluator on Jim Harbaugh

The benefit to the Chargers if McCarthy is taken with a top-four pick is obvious. If that happens, it likely means that quarterbacks were taken with the first four picks in the 2024 NFL Draft. It would put Los Angeles in a spot where the fifth pick is valued like the No. 1 overall pick, as wide receivers Marvin Harrison Jr. and Malik Nabers along with offensive tackle Joe Alt are all viewed as elite prospects.

There remains plenty of skepticism around the NFL that McCarthy will be drafted second overall. However, Harbaugh certainly seems to be doing a great job hyping up his former player and if his message has an impact, it will have a very positive outcome on the NFL Draft from the Chargers’ perspective.