Takeaways from Chargers GM Joe Hortiz’s pre-draft press conference

Chargers general manager Joe Hortiz held his final media availability before the 2024 NFL draft next Thursday.

First, he commented on the signing of running back JK Dobbins and what Los Angeles is getting with him.

The kid, the player, the talent, the competitor. J.K. [Dobbins], I had a chance to be with him for four years. A special, special competitor. He wants to be here. He just signed his deal about two hours ago, so excited and fired up. You feel the energy right away for him, a guy you know. I think one of the benefits to free agency, when you get to sign someone, you know what type of player they are, what type of person they are, how they’re going to be in this culture we’re setting up here, how they’re a fit — it’s great when you have an opportunity to do something like that. Just really excited to get him here.

Regarding his injury history, Hortiz said he considers it a product of “bad luck.” Dobbins dealt with a torn ACL that ended his 2021 season and a torn Achilles that ended his 2023 campaign. Hortiz said that he expects Dobbins to be ready by the time the season starts in September and that the team feels good about where he is physically.

When asked about the Dobbins signing potentially changing draft plans, Hortiz seemed to reject the premise. He brought up the example of the Ravens re-signing Marcus Williams while still drafting Kyle Hamilton when he was in Baltimore. Long story short: Dobbins doesn’t do anything to take running back off the board for LA, especially given what he’s physically coming back from.

Hortiz also chimed in on his mindset regarding the draft for the best player available vs. draft for need debate.

I think that it’s the best player available. Like I said, we want to add depth. Certainly, there are some positions that we don’t need — you know, quote-unquote need, in quotations — but, you’re one play away from needing a position. If you look at it based on need, you’re never just one player away, ever. I’ve learned that from my predecessors, [Ravens Executive Vice President] Ozzie Newsome and [Ravens Executive Vice President & General Manager] Eric DeCosta, and I believe that. When you get a chance to add a great player, you add them. That’s how we’re going to approach it.

Regarding trade scenarios, Hortiz said that teams have reached out to discuss them. Phone activity will ramp up closer to next week’s draft, as he noted they’re in control of the fifth pick, not the first. Discussions have been preliminary.

Hortiz mentioned the concept of “balancing” trade returns between seasons with future picks that could be offered in trades.

That’s the valuation that you put on all of the picks. We value every pick in the draft, we create a value for each pick. You sit there and say, ‘OK, is a future in X round worth more than one in this round?’ Certainly, we want to create some more picks, as many picks as we can this year. But, yeah, you do look forward, too, and if you get a chance to get a high-round pick next year, sometimes that creates more value.

On the nature of the Charger’s evaluation of the pick at five, Hortiz mentioned that the price would need to be high. Echoing comments that HC Jim Harbaugh made at the owner’s meetings, he said that the Chargers do believe they have the first pick in the draft with the expectation the top 4 picks will be quarterbacks.

Regarding Harbaugh, Hortiz said that his wealth of knowledge from the last several years of Big Ten and Michigan football, plus his recruiting Rolodex, are huge assets during the draft. Asked specifically about the Michigan prospects, he said, “We know the players better than anyone. That’s a major advantage for us.”

During the combine, Hortiz said that the Chargers interviewed 45 players in total. That’s in addition to their top 30 visits and other meetings at locations like the Senior and Shrine Bowls.

Perhaps most importantly, Hortiz also laid out the power structure and who is “responsible” for the picks.

I’m the one who picks the player. But, when I tell you it’s a collaborative process, it’s a collaborative process. I put the list together based on what we do as a group. That’s scouting, that’s coaching, that’s talking to Jim [Harbaugh] and Jim’s input and his evaluation on the players. I’m the one that ranks them and I’m, ultimately, the one that calls them. That’s the way it was where I came from. That’s the way it’s been here in L.A. with [Owner and Chairman of the Board] Dean [A. Spanos] and [President of Football Operations] John [Spanos]. That’s the way we’re continuing to operate, but it is a collaborative process.

While Harbaugh will undoubtedly have plenty of influence over the draft, he has issued similar sentiments on Hortiz’s control over the offseason process. Back at his introductory presser, Harbaugh went as far as to say he wants to be the “Robin to Hortiz’s Batman” during the player acquisition portion of the offseason.

With just a week left to go until the draft, it was nice to get a few nuggets from Hortiz. Although, as always, keep in mind he’s not going to say anything juicy in these media interviews as draft truths he’d expect to be held to next week.

Story originally appeared on Chargers Wire