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Wednesday, May 29, 2024
The Observer


Chargers select Joe Alt with fifth overall pick

All-American left tackle becomes highest-drafted Charger in eight years

On Thursday night, Notre Dame left tackle Joe Alt heard his name called in round one of the NFL Draft. The Los Angeles Chargers selected Alt with the fifth overall pick, making him the highest-drafted Irish player since quarterback Rick Mirer, whom Seattle drafted second overall in 1993. This year, only quarterback Caleb Williams, quarterback Jayden Daniels, quarterback Drake Maye and wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. went off the board sooner than Alt to start the first round.

With the selection, Alt also became the highest-drafted Charger since 2016, when the Bolts picked defensive end Joey Bosa third overall out of Ohio State. Alt joins an elite class of top-five Charger draft choices, including Hall of Famers LaDainian Tomlinson and Junior Seau, as well as two-time Super Bowl champion Eli Manning.

During a three-year career at Notre Dame, Alt played in 38 games, starting 33. As a junior in the 2023 season, he served as a team captain and played his way to unanimous All-American status. Alt also finished as a finalist for both the Lombardi Award and the Outland Trophy, which respectively honor the top lineman and interior lineman in the country. The native of North Oaks, Minnesota, also received a mix of First Team and Second Team All-American honors after his sophomore season in 2022.

Alt entered draft night with an NFL prospect grade of 6.49 out of eight, landing him on the “will become good starter within two years” area of the scale. At the combine, he checked in at 6-foot-9 and 321 pounds, completing the three-cone drill in 7.31 seconds for the fastest time by an offensive tackle this year. His results from the combine factored into his Next Gen Stats Draft Model score of 87, which positions him on the high end of the “good” tier and just below the “elite” level.

Many evaluators have compared Alt’s NFL makeup to Mike McGlinchey, Eric Fisher and Joe Thomas. McGlinchey, a Notre Dame product and ninth overall pick of San Francisco in 2018, has started every professional game he’s played in across six seasons. Fisher was the first overall pick in 2013 and a two-time Pro Bowler with Kansas City, while Thomas is in the Hall of Fame with six First Team All-Pro selections. Scouts have praised Alt’s discipline, composure and quickness in both his hands and feet as a blocker.

Alt also brings professional pedigree to the table as he enters the NFL. His father, John Alt, went 21st overall to the Kansas City Chiefs in the 1984 draft out of Iowa. That selection turned John into a two-time Pro Bowler and a Chiefs Hall of Famer. Joe’s brother, Mark, has also played 20 games in the National Hockey League.

For a Charger team badly needing a step forward in year five with quarterback Justin Herbert, Alt excellently fits Jim Harbaugh’s plan for greater physicality up front. The first-year Los Angeles head coach orchestrated smash mouth football while at the University of Michigan, leading the Wolverines to three College Football Playoff appearances and a national championship in the last three years.

Harbaugh has carried that mentality over to Southern California, where he and the Chargers have stocked up on interior offensive players this offseason. They brought in recovering running back J.K. Dobbins from Baltimore, signed center Bradley Bozeman and picked up tight ends Will Dissly and Hayden Hurst. The Chargers still have Pro Bowler Rashawn Slater manning left tackle, so Alt may be more apt to start out at right tackle. Doing so could benefit the developing Alt in the long run, as he enters the league with some concerns about how his forward-leaning posture will play at the next level.

Remember that Alt has a history of learning and mastering new positions. He mostly played tight end in high school before converting to left tackle as he approached college, and his selection tonight says more than enough about how that transition played out.