Might John Harbaugh have tipped his hand regarding his desires entering the 2024 NFL Draft? Harbaugh, who was hired by the Los Angeles Chargers this offseason, salivated over the offensive line position while at the annual league meetings.

“The offensive line to me is important,” Harbaugh told reporters Monday, per the Chargers. “If I asked you the question like, ‘What position group depends on no other position group to be good, but every other position group depends on them to be good. What position group is that?’ Offensive line.

“They’re not relying on any other position group to be good,” Harbaugh continued. “They go out, yet every other position group relies on the offensive line to be good.”

Harbaugh long has been viewed as a builder of the trenches. Winning up front was a major reason why Harbaugh and the Michigan Wolverines ultimately won a national championship last season. It’s fair to think he will carry that mindset to LA.

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The Chargers currently have 2021 first-round tackle Rashawn Slater and 2022 first-round guard Zion Johnson playing in front of Justin Herbert. But many of the top draft experts still project the Chargers will take an offensive tackle at No. 5, despite their glaring need at receiver after they traded Keenan Allen and released Mike Williams. Notre Dame’s Joe Alt is the top tackle in the class.

What the Chargers do with their fifth pick will be something tackle-needy teams monitor. It will be something receiver-needy teams pay close attention to, as well.

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A team who fits both? The New England Patriots.

The Patriots currently hold the No. 3 pick. If they stay there, they’ll almost certainly select a quarterback and hold off on a tackle and/or receiver. In that case, LA’s first-round decision won’t have as much of an impact.

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However, both owner Robert Kraft and head coach Jerod Mayo have said New England is open to trading back. A trade down the board might be the Patriots best course of action given where their roster stands.

Should the Patriots trade down with any team — Giants (No. 5), Vikings (No. 11), Broncos (No. 12), Raiders (No. 13), etc. — it likely would be to draft either a first-round tackle or receiver (or both). The direction the Chargers go ultimately could make it more enticing for the Patriots to go the opposite.

Fortunately for both the Chargers and the Patriots, experts have praised the depth at both position groups. NFL Media’s Daniel Jeremiah believes it would be wise for a team needy of both positions to first draft a tackle before receiver. The degree of separation among wideouts, Jeremiah said, isn’t as glaring as tackles.

Perhaps Harbaugh will share that mindset. Perhaps the Patriots will, too.

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Featured image via Nathan Ray Seebeck/USA TODAY Sports Images