Brenden Jaimes’ sister had a volleyball tournament in Houston that weekend, so rather than splitting up the family between Austin—where Jaimes grew up and played high school ball—and Houston, the family rented some space in a hotel so everyone could be together to watch the 2021 NFL Draft.
“A lot of waiting around,” Jaimes recently told Hail Varsity Radio. Some had given the former Nebraska left tackle a fourth-round pre-draft grade. Jaimes had to wait until the third day of the draft and the fifth round before getting a phone call from Los Angeles.
“We really enjoyed watching your career at Nebraska, a really consistent player, and we see you as like a tackle/guard, guard/tackle,” Chargers General Manager Tom Telesco told Jaimes on the phone.
Jaimes was reserved, but appreciative. “This is gonna be a great situation for you, bub,” first-year head coach Brandon Staley told Jaimes after taking the phone. Lots of veterans to learn from, namely Bryan Bulaga, a 12-year man who was a first-round draft choice and a Super Bowl winner with the Packers.
Throughout the phone call informing him he was being drafted, Jaimes was pretty muted in his reactions. Polite, but muted.
Call it shock.
“I think throughout the entire process it was a mixture of a lot of different teams, and honestly I don’t think the Chargers were in that mixture,” Jaimes said. “There were a lot of other teams that showed a lot more interest to me individually than the Chargers did. I mean, obviously they had a lot of behind-the-scenes interest that I guess I didn’t realize throughout the process.
“Coming up on draft day, I thought the teams who were most interested were the Vikings, Cowboys, Raiders, and Lions. I was expecting a call from one of those teams, so when I heard LA was calling me, I think that was kind of a shocking surprise. Took me a little bit by surprise, but they said they’d been interested in me for a long time and they were happy that they got me.”
Jaimes will enter into an interesting situation. On LA’s promotional material surrounding Jaimes’ selection, they labeled him a guard. They’ve done so on their online roster page as well. With their first-round pick, the Chargers selected Northwestern’s Rashawn Slater, a lineman who started 26 straight games at right tackle for the Wildcats before making 11 starts at left tackle in 2019. (He opted out in 2020.)
“We went into this offseason changing out four starters on the offensive line, it’s kind of a big project to take on,” Telesco told reporters after the Chargers had made their final selection of the draft. “Quite frankly I thought it’d be more of a two-year project to do, it’s just hard to be able to do that in one offseason, but I’m happy. I’m happy with what we have right now up front, I’m happy with some depth.”
In Jaimes, Telesco reiterated that he feels the former Husker has the flexibility to play guard but later added that with day three selections, the Chargers were drafting players and not to fill specific positions.
With Bulaga the lone holdover from the previous offensive line, he and Slater could be the two tackles penciled in at the moment. Jaimes’ best pathway toward playing time in the short-term could be at guard.
“The only experience that I have inside is at the senior bowl,” he told reporters during his introductory press conference. “I just felt like I got better and better even if it was only three days of practice so I think you give me a couple weeks or a month to get used to that position, I think I can really thrive in that position.”
Ask him what to do and he’ll do it. That was the main sentiment from Jaimes after his selection. Guard or tackle, it doesn’t matter, he wants to compete.
“The opportunity to compete (is what’s exciting),” he said. “I’ve said this before, I’m coming in with a chip on my shoulder. I want to be able to build relationships with the guys in the room and be able to compete with them and just have fun doing it. That’s what I’m looking to do is compete and have fun and really live out my dream that I’ve had since I was a kid.”
Jaimes felt he was just as good, if not better, than some of the linemen drafted ahead of him. He’s studied the likes of Tyron Smith, David Bakhtiari, and Eric Fisher, tackles he calls “technicians,” but he’s been compared the most to Joe Thuney, a tackle while at NC State and then an everywhere-man for the New England Patriots.
Now, Thuney started double-digit games with the Wolfpack as a guard. Jaimes made 40 consecutive starts for Nebraska just at tackle. But, he feels the experience of playing in the Big Ten will serve him well. And you can tell he’s proud of his record.
“I committed to Nebraska to be part of a great tradition of offensive linemen, and I don’t think you could have done that on the sidelines,” he said. “I did my best to stay on the field through little injuries and do what I could off the field to prevent major injuries and I feel like I did that pretty well and I’ll continue to do that. I think it’ll serve a good purpose in the NFL.
“I mean, in the Big Ten you have edge rushers and interior guys who were really big, strong, and fast, and I think some of the best in all of college football. … I think I’ve proven myself that I can play at this level with this type of caliber of guys, and I’m just finally ready to be able to do it at the next level.”
Telesco says with all the day three draftees, earning their keep will have to come by committing to special teams. “They gotta come in and earn a special teams role first or else it’s hard to make the team,” he said. “Then start to work your way into a role on defense or offense.”
For Jaimes, he’s expecting to hit the road in a few weeks for rookie minicamp—things are still getting finalized. He seems thrilled to be heading to LA. Asked what the Chargers were getting in him, Jaimes was clear: “A blue-collar worker that works his ass off on and off the field.”
Derek is a newbie on the Hail Varsity staff covering Husker athletics. In college, he was best known as ‘that guy from Twitter.’ He has covered a Sugar Bowl, a tennis national championship and almost everything in between (except an NCAA men’s basketball tournament game… *tears*). In his spare time, he can be found arguing with literally anyone about sports.