The NY Jets hope to have landed one of the best offensive linemen in the 2021 NFL Draft class in their trade up to No. 14 to select USC's Alijah Vera-Tucker.
The price point, a pair of third-round picks, has been debated in recent days. But it's safe to say that if Vera-Tucker's career unfolds in the way that the Jets believe it will, the conversation will quickly become irrelevant.
Vera-Tucker is expected to slot in as a day-one starter at left guard forming a formidable duo on the left side of the offensive line alongside 2020 first-round pick Mekhi Becton.
We've watched the tape on Vera-Tucker. We've read the scouting reports. But what are the USC experts saying about the former Trojans star?
We teamed up with Alicia de Artola of our sister site, Reign of Troy, to pick her brain about the Jets' newest young offensive lineman. Alicia is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and an expert on all things USC.
Below is a quick overview of our conversation.
What are the NY Jets getting in Alijah Vera Tucker?
Justin: "At what point did you begin to realize that Vera-Tucker was a special talent?"
Alicia: "It was clear Vera-Tucker had potential coming out of high school, but he didn't get the chance to prove himself until after his redshirt year. In 2018, he served as a backup at guard. He should have been starting. He simply looked like the more capable guard. He finally broke through as a regular starter in 2019 and immediately proved he was on another level. While Austin Jackson got attention as the big draft prospect on that line, AVT was by far the best lineman for USC that year. When he came back in 2020, the left tackle experiment worked out. If there was any doubt about him by that point, it was completely wiped away."
Justin: "What are some areas of improvement that Vera-Tucker needs to work on?"
Alicia: "He has the size, strength, and mentality to be a really good offensive lineman. He just needs to be coached up to get the technical aspects more on his side. He can improve his footwork, pad level, and all those things related to technique that turn a promising prospect into an actual success story."
Justin: "Do you have any favorite memories of Vera-Tucker at USC?"
Alicia: "My favorite memory is more the general feeling of confidence I'd get knowing he was taking care of his business. Being able to watch each USC game back and not having to note down No. 74 because he wasn't responsible for the regular breakdowns on the Trojan line was a gift. And when things went well for the offensive line, there was rarely a time AVT wasn't at the root of it."
Justin: "The Jets plan to play Vera-Tucker at guard, but do you think he'd be able to hold up at tackle in the NFL?"
Alicia: "He was at his best at USC as a guard. While he got the job done at tackle, I'm not sure he can cope with speed rushers the way he'd need to in the NFL."
Justin: "Lastly, are there any other things that Jets fans should know about Vera-Tucker?"
Alicia: "USC has had plenty of offensive linemen fail to develop or not pan out for the program over the last few years. The ones who do work out do so because they've grabbed the bull by the horns and insisted on progressing as an individual. That's a credit to Vera-Tucker. He's going to work hard and do everything he can to get the most out of his pro career. I'm sure of that."
Special thanks again to Alicia for taking the time to speak with us. Here's to hoping that Alijah Vera-Tucker lives up to the potential that he showed at USC with the Jets.