Vikings general manager Rick Spielman continued his pro day tour on Wednesday at USC, where he got to observe a number of interesting prospects, headlined by the consensus top guard in the 2021 draft class.
It's no secret that the Vikings need guards. It's a position that has been an ongoing weakness for basically the entire Mike Zimmer era, and one that many fans have clamored for the team to finally use some serious resources to address. Last year, the Vikings' guards were journeyman backup Dakota Dozier — who started all 16 games on the left side for reasons that boggle the mind — and a trio of right guards: Pat Elflein, Dru Samia, and converted rookie tackle Ezra Cleveland.
It was a mess, yet it was nothing out of the ordinary for the Vikings.
If Cleveland moves back to his natural position of left tackle this season now that Riley Reiff is in Cincinnati, the Vikings will need two new guards. There's still time for them to sign someone like Austin Blythe or Forrest Lamp in free agency, but the best guard they could acquire is a draft prospect named Alijah Vera-Tucker.
If you believe Northwestern's Rashawn Slater is a tackle, Vera-Tucker is the clear No. 1 guard in this year's draft. He shined at guard to begin his USC career before impressively kicking out to left tackle last season. AVT is technically sound, consistent, and strong — characteristics that give him both a high floor and a high ceiling at the next level.
Here's how he tested on Wednesday:
36 bench press reps is the first thing that jumps out. His 40 time and vertical jump are also impressive and show off the athleticism that the Vikings like in offensive linemen. He's not a freakish athlete on the level of Cleveland, Brian O'Neill, or Texas's Sam Cosmi, but he doesn't need to be.
Vera-Tucker's arm length suggests that he'll be viewed as a guard, not a tackle. 32 1/8" arms are very short for a tackle. Length and punch are more important on the outside, whereas interior linemen need more strength and suddenness.
Given that the Vikings haven't done anything to address their offensive line yet in free agency, Vera-Tucker will continue to be a very popular name at the No. 14 overall pick in mock drafts for the next five weeks. The Vikings could potentially trade back a few spots and still get him, but AVT seems unlikely to make it outside the top 20 with his film, testing numbers, and versatility.
Other players Spielman got to see at USC who could be fits for the Vikings include safety Talanoa Hufanga, wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown, and defensive tackle Jay Tufele.
This was the sixth pro day that Spielman has been confirmed to have attended, with more to come.
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