Chargers draft pair of weapons in WR McConkey, LB Colson on day 2

The Sporting Tribune's Fernando Ramirez on about how Jim Harbaugh's squad is starting to show identity after day two of the draft.

COSTA MESA, Calif. — The Chargers brass decided to select left tackle Joe Alt in the first round of the NFL Draft. There were questions about why they didn’t choose a playmaker to help quarterback Justin Herbert.

On day two, they decided to help both sides of the football by selecting Georgia wide receiver Ladd McConkey and then went to a familiar face in Michigan linebacker Junior Colson.

It reunites Colson with coach Jim Harbaugh, former defensive coordinator Jesse Minter, and others who have jumped to the NFL.

“He picked me again,” Colson said about Harbaugh drafting him.

The former Wolverine couldn’t hide his excitement about joining his former coach. They won a national championship last season, and now they get to chase a Lombardi Trophy.

“He’s the best coach to play for, I believe in,” Colson said. “He’s a winner. That’s something that you always want to follow, you want to follow a winner, you want to be with winners.”

The Chargers opened Friday by trading up three spots in the second round to No. 34 with New England to select McConkey. The Chargers gave up their fourth-round pick (No. 110) along with dealing No. 37 for No. 34 and No. 137, which is a fifth-rounder.

When watching the tape, McConkey’s speed and explosiveness jumped out. He uses his route-running ability to get open, then leaves defenders behind.

Dec 30, 2023; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Georgia Bulldogs wide receiver Ladd McConkey (84) makes a catch and runs for touchdown against the Florida State Seminoles during the first half in the 2023 Orange Bowl at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

“Competitor, big-time,” Harbaugh said. “Those things. He catches the ball. A terrific route-runner.

“He has the quickness, he has the speed that is going to be great for our offense. I love the guys that can run in the 4.3s.”

While he is very talented, McConkey isn’t a No. 1 receiver, but he could be a two or three, depending on how Jim Harbaugh decides to use him.

“A gadget guy that can kind of do a little bit of it all,” McConkey said. “Just going to go out there, see what my role is with them.”

He has a strong route-running tree that could be an advantage for him, especially in the NFL. He seems to find the space between defenders and use it against them. 

“Just watching (Herbert’s) game, it comes easy to him,” McConkey said. “He can make any and every throw.

“Excited to get out there, get in rhythm with him, show him what I can do and gain his trust.”

The only question about McConkey is the back injury he suffered during preseason camp, which kept him out for the first four games of the season.

“I’m 100 percent,” he said. “All of that is in the past. I feel good. Ever since I came back and started playing last year, I haven’t had any trouble with it.”

His strongest season was his sophomore year, when he had 58 catches for 762 yards and seven touchdowns, many of them breakaways. 

The Chargers turned to the defense and selected Colson. He was a leader and, in the words of Harbaugh, a “big-time competitor.”

“I think that I’m that guy in the middle that they’ve been looking for, that guy that can run the defense and call the plays,” Colson said. “It’s very similar, we ran the exact same defense back in college.

“It’s going to be very easy to get in and get to work.”

Harbaugh reveled in Colson’s toughness, including how he broke his hand against Purdue in early November. When asked if he was okay, Colson said, “Ah, it’s almost halftime. I think I’ll just keep playing.”

“We went in and, sure enough, it was broken,” Harbaugh said. “Next thing you know, he’s out there playing with a club.

“More than one-and-a-half hands were in a club for a good part of the season.”

The interesting part is where Colson fits with the Chargers. The Chargers brought back Denzel Perryman, carried over second-year player Daiyan Henley and now add Colson. It is a good problem to have for defensive coordinator Jesse Minter.

“To be determined,” Harbaugh said. “We really like Denzel. We like Daiyan a whole heck of a lot, too. We’re just beginning to get out there on the field.”

While Colson was speaking to the media via Zoom, linebackers coach NaVorro Bowman stood there excitedly watching the Michigan linebacker answer questions. And he interjected his thoughts on Colson.

“I stood on a table from day one for you,” Bowman said. “I am happy you are here. We can hit the ground running fast, man.”

Bowman should be excited about all three linebackers because a position of weakness could slowly become a strength.

The Chargers turn to Day three, when they have six selections.

Harbaugh’s brother, John, gave him the thumbs up for his selections, as he did after day one.

“He did,” Harbaugh said about his brother texting him. “I said, ‘Right back at you.’ The guys he got, that Baltimore got, were really good picks. I know he wouldn’t say it if he didn’t think it.

“That the text on both Junior [Colson] and Ladd [McConkey]. He said Ladd was a big-time competitor. On Junior, he said he just loved his tape.”