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NFL Draft: Breaking Down How USC's Alijah Vera-Tucker Fits in with NY Jets

Vera-Tucker's impressive career at USC earned him the highest grade among guards entering the NFL Draft. But how will the former Trojan fit in with the re-building New York Jets?

When the New York Jets saw Alijah Vera-Tucker still on the board at No. 14, they felt he was too much of a game-changer to let him slide any further. Thus the Jets traded the Minnesota Vikings picks 23, 66, and 86 in exchange for pick 14 and 143.

"Where we were sitting at 23, we felt we had a unique opportunity to get a top-10 player in our minds," said Jets GM Joe Douglas on Thursday night after the conclusion of the first round.

It's easy to see why the Jets weren't afraid to trade major draft capital for Vera-Tucker when you read his scouting report and watch the tape. This is a guy who dominated people from the left guard spot in 2019; then he came back in 2020 and showed everyone he can do it from the left tackle spot as well.

Positional versatility is a major key, especially with the speed of the NFL game.

Running backs are better pass catchers, we're seeing strong safeties become hybrid linebackers, and having a pass protector that can play all over 'the line' gives a team important flexibility.

With Vera-Tucker now in the fold, the left side of the Jets line should be set in stone for the next decade. New York drafted left tackle Mekhi Becton as their first round pick last year, but wanted to continue adding depth this offseason. 

After watching former USC Trojan Sam Darnold get battered around for the past three seasons, first year head coach Robert Saleh and his staff prioritized better protecting their shiny new toy QB Zach Wilson.

Saleh plans to integrate more of a 'west coast system' which can be commonly identified by the 49ers, Packers, and Rams offense. Having an athletic and smart offensive lineman like Vera-Tucker will help the offense excel. A majority of the system is predicated on pre-snap motion and how well the lineman creates lanes in the run game.

GM Joe Douglas told the media that Vera-Tucker will have to come in and compete for the starting role against their returning roster. Currently ESPN has the former Trojan leading the depth chart at the left guard position with Alex Lewis and Corey Levin behind him.

[WATCH: Joe Douglas Tells Alijah Vera-Tucker He's a NY Jet]

Vera-Tucker has all the physical and mental attributes to be an All-Pro, but pairing him with an offensive mind like Saleh and his staff could eventually put him on the path to Canton, Ohio.


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