Fighting Irish Follow-Up: The Chargers nab two former Notre Dame standouts

© Jena Stopczynski

Many expected former University of Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh, who accepted the same role with the Los Angeles Chargers in February, to heavily target his former players with the defending college football National Champions in his first draft with the team. However, Los Angeles wound up with just as many Fighting Irish alumni when all was said and done. 

The Chargers made Joe Alt the first offensive lineman off the board, as they selected the Notre Dame stalwart with the fifth overall pick. They later added cornerback Cam Hart, who spent five collegiate seasons in South Bend, in the fifth round. 

Los Angeles was heavily expected to target a receiver with their first pick, as they lost three of their top pass-catchers in the offseason in Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, and Gerald Everett. However, they ultimately concluded that protecting Justin Herbert, especially with someone of Alt's caliber, was more important than reloading at the receiver position. 

With third-year standout Rashawn Slater holding down the left tackle spot in Los Angeles, Alt will probably move to the right side to start his career. Between the two of them, the Chargers could have the league's premier tackle duo. 

Alt was one of the most NFL-ready prospects in the entire draft, and it would not be surprising to see him earn a Pro Bowl nod as soon as this season. He is just as adept at running defenders over in the run game (which will be a major asset with Harbaugh's clock control philosophies) as he is at stonewalling defenders in pass protection. 

While Alt was one of the first names off the board, Hart had a much more difficult wait on draft weekend, as he heard many names called before finally getting his moment in the sun. One hundred thirty-nine of them, to be exact.

The cover man was selected much later than expected, as many thought he could hear his name called as early as the second round, and he routinely was projected around the third round during the pre-draft process.

Unlike fellow Notre Dame standout Audric Estime, who had to wait seven more selections to hear his name get called, Hart's draft fall had nothing to do with his performance at the NFL Combine in February, as Hart's well-rounded athleticism was on display at the event. 

While his NFL draft experience might not have gone as expected, Hart still found an ideal landing spot with the Chargers. The only player guaranteed to be ahead of him on the depth chart is Asante Samuel Jr. Third-year man Ja'Sir Taylor is also a lock for the slot cornerback spot, but that was never going to be the Notre Dame product's role in the pros.

The 23-year-old will be competing with Kristian Fulton, a free agent acquisition coming off the worst season of his career with the Titans, for playing time at the other starting outside cornerback spot opposite Samuel Jr. If Hart can impress in training camp and when he gets his opportunities to get on the field, he could grab the starting spot early in the year. 

Alt is not the only one Hart is reuniting with in the pros, as the Chargers' defensive line coach, Mike Elston, and safeties coach, Chris O'Leary, also spent time in South Bend during Alt's tenure with the school. The familiarity with his coaches and experience starting for a quality defense at Notre Dame could help him get on the field quicker than his draft position might suggest. 

Even if Hart fails to grab a starting spot on the outside, he has the skills to become a quality contributor on special teams (which will take on more significance with the new kickoff rules implemented this year) right out of the gate. 

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