Alijah Vera-Tucker - OG/T, USC
By the numbers:
6'4", 315 pounds.
Started full seasons in 2019 (13 games) and 2020 (six games).
Positional versatility is the first thing that sticks out when analyzing Alijah Vera-Tucker. Although he came up as a guard and spent the 2017-2019 seasons there for the Trojans, he switched to left tackle once he opted back into the 2020 season. He held his own and played well enough that the transition boosted his draft stock instead of hurting it.
Intelligence is a major part of Vera-Tucker's game. He reads defenders' pass-rush plans and is technically sound. He places his hands well within his assignment's frame, which allows him to remain engaged and in control throughout the entirety of his reps. While his reaction time isn't anything special, it's certainly good enough for the NFL and his initial punch will keep defensive linemen honest at the point of attack.
At guard, Vera-Tucker has good size and more than adequate athleticism. He can get to the second level of the defense with ease from that position and his high football IQ makes him a huge asset in run blocking.
"Nasty" and "dirty" are two terms commonly used to describe linemen who play with an insane amount of grit and reckless abandon for who they're matched up against. Vera-Tucker has the smarts to consistently wash away whoever he faces, but he doesn't always completely finish his reps. A nastier demeanor would go a long way for him in the NFL.
A lot of the potential drawbacks to Vera-Tucker's game hinge upon where he plays at the next level. He's not an elite athlete as a guard, and at tackle, his lateral agility and overall quickness are brought into question. Adding strength should help him with the aforementioned finishing of plays but if it makes him even a little bit slower, he should be a guard as a pro.
How Vera-Tucker fits with the Chiefs:
It's easy to watch the Chiefs' current patchwork offensive line and worry about options for next season. With that said, Lucas Niang and Laurent Duvernay-Tardif are expected to return to the team. Right tackle Mitchell Schwartz's status moving forward is unknown, so right tackle could become a pressing need this offseason.
In that case, Niang would likely be better suited to move there than Vera-Tucker, who has an opportunity to thrive as a starting guard at the NFL level. It just so happens that the Chiefs' interior offensive line has struggled immensely at times this season, which makes Vera-Tucker a hand-in-glove fit capable of starting from the jump if needed.
Vera-Tucker's lack of elite athleticism and strength may limit his overall ceiling in the NFL, but his floor is remarkably high. He plays a smart brand of football and has a terrific understanding of hand placement, good anticipation and very solid footwork. His better-than-expected play at tackle as a junior certainly helped his cause and because of that, he projects as a probable first-round pick.