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Chargers select Notre Dame OT Alt with fifth pick


COSTA MESA, Calif. (AP) — The Los Angeles Chargers' new brain trust of coach Jim Harbaugh and general manager Joe Hortiz has spoken about wanting a physical team on offense that can wear down opponents.

With their first selection, Harbaugh and Hortiz took a step in that direction, taking Notre Dame offensive tackle Joe Alt with the fifth pick in the NFL draft Thursday night.

“I said it from the beginning when we started talking about the draft, we were going to take the best player available for the Chargers,” Hortiz said. “(Alt) helps our team and he helps us get better. We want to get better with every pick, and that’s what we feel like we did.”

The Chargers elected to go with the offensive line in the first round for the third time in four years despite having a need at wide receiver after they released Mike Williams and traded Keenan Allen to Chicago for a fourth-round pick.

LSU's Malik Nabers and Washington's Rome Odunze were among the receivers available when the Chargers went on the clock, but Los Angeles went with the consensus top offensive line prospect in the draft.

“I know the question is going to come up and you’re going to say, ‘What about a weapon?’ Offensive linemen, we look at as weapons,” Harbaugh said. “That group, when we talk about attacking, offensive line is the tip of the spear.”

Alt played 38 games at Notre Dame and started 33 at left tackle. He is also the first player from the Fighting Irish to go in the top five since quarterback Rick Mirer went second overall to the Seattle Seahawks in 1993.

Alt said he thought it was possible the Chargers would pick him.

“I thought I had a great interview during the combine and had a good time with coach Harbaugh and the staff and talk about offensive line play,” Ault said.

The Chargers appeared to be in a good position to acquire extra picks and trade down, but decided to stand pat. Hortiz said there were some calls about the pick, including one while the Chargers were on the clock, but there wasn't an enticing offer made to move back.

Alt joins fellow first-round picks left tackle Rashaun Slater and left guard Zion Johnson in the offensive line room. Bradley Bozeman is projected to be the starting center after signing as a free agent while right tackle Trey Pipkins and right guard Jamaree Salyer were starters last season.

Harbaugh did not want to immediately address where he expects Ault to fit in on the line, but he did say Slater is set at left tackle. After Pipkins struggled two of the past three years, it appears Ault is likely to play at right tackle.

Alt took some snaps at right tackle during preseason fall camp his freshman year, but played on the left side during games.

“I don’t think it will be a huge adjustment for me,” he said. “During combine prep I prepared to play right side. I think it is something I'll be able to do if that's what the coach would like.”

Alt is the highest-drafted Notre Dame offensive lineman since George Kunz went second overall to the Atlanta Falcons in 1969. In 2018, guard Quenton Nelson went sixth overall to Indianapolis and tackle Michael McGlinchey was picked ninth by San Francisco.

Alt's father, offensive tackle John Alt, was a first-round draft selection by Kansas City in 1984 and a two-time Pro Bowl selection during 13 seasons with the Chiefs.