On paper, the Green Bay Packers are set at guard. Last year’s returning starters, Pro Bowler Elgton Jenkins and Lucas Patrick, are under contract. Plus, the team used sixth-round choices on Jon Runyan and Simon Stepaniak last year. However, if Jenkins or Patrick wind up moving to center, there will be a hole in the lineup, though Runyan showed promise in limited action as a rookie.
USC’s Alijah Vera-Tucker is our No. 1-ranked guard.
Oct. 6 might as well have been Dec. 25 for the USC Trojans. That’s when Alijah Vera-Tucker did a 180 and opted back in for the 2020 football season.
“The opportunity to rejoin my teammates, represent the Trojan Family, continue to advance towards my degree and compete for a Pac-12 championship is something I could not pass up,” Vera-Tucker said in his announcement video. “I’m eager to lead my teammates down the tunnel of the Coliseum next month and show the college football world that the Trojans are ready to play.”
In 2019, Vera-Tucker was voted USC’s top offensive lineman – ahead of left tackle and first-round pick Austin Jackson – and was named a 2020 preseason All-American. Upon returning to the team, Vera-Tucker replaced Jackson at left tackle. He was so good that he was voted the best offensive lineman in Pac-12 Conference by the league’s defensive linemen.
“He’s the type of guy who’s not a repeat offender,” offensive line coach Tim Drevno said. “That’s his DNA makeup … He never makes excuses about anything. He’s the first person to say, ‘Hey, what do I need to do to fix it?’”
With shorter arms than teams prefer for an offensive tackle, Vera-Tucker is expected to move back inside to guard. He had a terrific pro day in terms of athleticism and strength (36 reps on the 225-pound bench press but was docked four because he didn’t lock his arms).
"One thing is I'm very physical on the field. Whether it's at guard or left tackle, I feel like you see that a lot when you turn on my tape -- definitely try to finish guys every single play," he told Rivals. "And then also I feel like my IQ is very high in this game as well, able to just recognize ... just little things in the game that are important for anybody to understand. And also, I feel like I'm a very good technician, too. I take that very seriously in my game. So just kind of all those things combined, I feel like separate me from the other offensive linemen in this class.”
Vera-Tucker, who spent his redshirt season at USC battling the likes of future NFL defenders Rasheem Green and Josh Fatu, was a high school All-American despite being a relative newcomer to the sport.
“Freshman year (of high school), my first year of football, I was immediately placed on the line and I’ve been there ever since,” he told USA Today High School Sports. “I just love it.”
Measureables: 6-foot-4 1/2, 308 pounds, 32 1/8-inch arms. 5.10 40, 4.63 shuttle, 32 bench-press reps.
Stats and accolades: Vera-Tucker made the move from guard to tackle in 2020 and won the Morris Trophy, which goes to the Pac-12’s best offensive lineman as voted on by the conference’s defensive linemen. Playing left tackle, Pro Football Focus charged him with four sacks and eight pressures. According to Sports Info Solutions, he gave up two sacks, had four blown blocks (one run, three passes) and was flagged twice for holding in six games. Playing guard in 2019, SIS charged him with no sacks, five blown blocks (four runs, one pass) and no holding penalties in 13 starts.
NFL Draft Bible says: He’s a well-proportioned interior player who hits all the necessary size thresholds wanted from the position. Vera-Tucker is a smooth operator for a man his size, profiling perfectly to a zone blocking scheme that values the ability to move the line of scrimmage laterally. AVT is such a smooth athlete that he even operated at left tackle in 2020 for the Trojans and played very well -- well enough that some teams may toy with the idea of keeping him outside. Despite the natural gifts, Vera-Tucker leaves you wanting just a little bit more. He’s not aggressive enough, appearing a little passive working past first contact and into the second level. It’s all there for Vera-Tucker to become a starting-caliber player relatively early in his career.
About This Series
Packer Central is introducing you to the top prospects, both on and off the field, in this year’s NFL Draft. The series is starting with the top five at each position, then will add additional players as the draft approaches, with a focus on positions of need.