When the Jets traded up in the first round to draft Alijah Vera-Tucker at No. 14, it was an aggressive tactic to snag a top-10 player before he came off the board.
Sacrificing two third-round picks in the trade was certainly an investment, but the upside with Vera-Tucker on the offensive line is clear. With the USC product projected to line up at left guard, flanking last year's first-rounder Mekhi Becton at left tackle, New York has a two-headed monster up front, holding it down on the left side.
"Being able to play alongside Mekhi, that's just two physical players on that left side so yeah that'd be great," Vera-Tucker said on Saturday.
Vera-Tucker was viewed by many as this year's top-rated guard coming out of college, but his versatility makes him even more valuable for this team. After all, Vera-Tucker moved over to left tackle this past season to fill an internal need at USC despite developing at left guard up to that point.
Shortly after picking the lineman on Thursday night, Jets general manager Joe Douglas hinted at using Vera-Tucker in multiple spots up front.
"I know we have a lot of guys on our offensive line that have played multiple positions," Douglas explained. "[Vera-Tucker] is going to come in and compete and ultimately, we’re going to have our best five offensive linemen on the field come opening Sunday."
Later that evening, head coach Robert Saleh was asked about Vera-Tucker's fit specifically at left guard.
"Before this year, Alijah was a left guard and he was a really good left guard," Saleh said. "Now, this year he was a really good left tackle. So obviously, him playing on the left side for the majority of his career, being in that left-handed stance, being comfortable in that left-handed stance ... I’m sure it wouldn’t be a problem for him being in a right-handed stance either."
The third offensive lineman taken in the first round, Vera-Tucker brings quite a few skills to the table.
"I'm a guy who's real physical, has a high IQ for the game, very quick feet, gets to the second level really well, able to adjust to different pass rushers, has quick hands too," he said. "When you bring all those things together, I just think it brings a real dominant player."
Sound familiar? Becton viewed himself as the "most dominant player in the draft" last year, a monster up front that's already proven that he's a key building block for the future of this franchise.
Vera-Tucker's team-first mentality is invaluable as well. He's not stubborn about the position he'll be playing at the next level, articulating that he's open to utilizing his versatility. As much as he's excited to line up next to a behemoth like Becton—who was one of the Jets' bright spots in last year's two-win campaign—he's willing to help the team no matter where he's lining up when the ball is snapped.
"It's wherever the team needs me," he said. "They need me to be at left guard, right guard, right tackle, wherever, I'm just going to come in and play. Definitely been thinking about [playing next to Becton], but at the same time, it really doesn't matter to me."
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