After years of pursuit, the NFL has again lured Jim Harbaugh away from the NCAA. After leading his alma mater, Michigan, to a national championship, he seemingly considered his story done there. He will do his best to restore the Los Angeles Chargers for his next story.
This will be Harbaugh’s second stint coaching in the NFL. His first run came with the San Francisco 49ers peaking when he reached Super Bowl XLVII. He would lose that appearance to his brother John Harbaugh and the Baltimore Ravens, but his run was telling. During his time, he was able to maximize the abilities of Alex Smith, Michael Crabtree, and Colin Kaepernick.
He is now expected to give Justin Herbert an offense catered to him, finally. Offensive coordinator Kellen Moore did an okay job at times this year, but Brandon Staley negated all the positive progress being made. Reports signal that Moore may get a chance to prove himself unless Jim Harbaugh brings his former NFL offensive coordinator, Greg Roman, to Los Angeles.
Whoever ends up calling the offense will have to be creative. The Chargers have the third lowest amount of cap space as of January 25, and they have several tough free-agency decisions. Will they bring back both Keenan Allen and Mike Williams? Can they afford to? Who replaces Austin Ekeler? Jim Harbaugh will have to answer all of these.
What Does This Mean for Justin Herbert?
Jim Harbaugh is a former NFL quarterback, so he knows the pressure on Justin Herbert. The former Oregon quarterback has had a string of bad luck ever since he took over the starting job for the Chargers. Be it bad injury luck with the skill players, coaching staff hires, or a rotation of play callers. All of those have hampered his development, and despite that, he is as talented and promising as anyone who plays quarterback in the NFL.
What Jim Harbaugh will help with Herbert on day one is the processing needed for the position. The second, arguably most important, is developing an offense around him. People are turned off by the idea of Greg Roman coming in and being the offensive coordinator, which makes sense. Roman only passes it roughly 43% of his plays. It makes Herbert an immediate sell, but if you play dynasty, you know long-term plays matter.
Herbert should be a hold at this point in your dynasty leagues. There have been growing pains, but that big contract means the hire of Jim Harbaugh is meant to serve the quarterback. You can hope that Greg Roman isn’t hired; if he isn’t, great. If he is, though, watch closely as Herbert develops into the quarterback everyone has expected him to be, and that is when the leash gets extended, and he can be more open within this offense.
Addressing the Running Back Situation
Austin Ekeler was playing hurt a lot this season, and that, coupled with the workload he has under his belt, all signs point to the two parties separating. Ekeler has had 1,430 touches within the Chargers offense since entering the league in 2017. The team is going to be looking for a replacement, and he may not have to look much further than a now former player.
The pick may come across as a reach, but the Chargers should consider drafting Blake Corum with the 37th overall pick in April’s draft. The former Michigan Wolverine was the straw that stirred the drink for Jim Harbaugh’s offense. He showed he could handle a large workload while doing so as both a runner and pass catcher. If they did indeed go with Corum, it is not a stretch to say he could easily finish as an RB1 in 2024. Because of that, he would also become a hot commodity in rookie drafts. Roman and Harbaugh have gotten massive production out of every running back they have coached together; Corum would be no different.
Who Are Players Jim Harbaugh Could Target in the Draft?
Brock Bowers, Tight End, Georgia
The Chargers hold the fifth overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft. Never has Jim Harbaugh had such a high pick, so you have to assume he will be looking for a playmaker. Based on how he used players within his offense as recently as Michigan, Brock Bowers is starting to look like an obvious pick.
Bowers is the ultimate dual-threat tight end. He could stretch the field by beating a safety over the top and just as easily pancake a defensive lineman. He would be a two-birds-with-one-stone pick for a Chargers offense needing help. Bowers and his fantasy value wouldn’t be anything crazy due to the expected pass attempts in the offense but he would be a primary target.
Malik Nabers, Wide Receiver, LSU
The ideal pick for the benefit of Justin Herbert and his own fantasy value would be Malik Nabers. The LSU wide receiver would easily be the number one receiver in most classes, but Marvin Harrison Jr. took that away from him. Nabers could be used out wide or in the slot. He would also serve as a nice compliment to either Keenan Allen or Mike Williams, whoever survives NFL contract roulette.
Nabers would be a top rookie pick if this is where he lands. His skill set is much different than that of anyone on the roster. His arrival would also do well to serve Quentin Johnston and his development, so he faces more lax coverages.