NAME: Alijah Vera-Tucker
POSITION: Left Guard/Left Tackle
WEIGHT: 315 pounds
Before his days in college football, Alijah Vera-Tucker played both offensive tackle and defensive end on his high school football team. He is a native of Oakland, California. For his high school career, Vera-Tucker attended Bishop O’Dowd High School in Oakland. From there, he was named an Under Armour All-American as a senior and was rated as a four-star recruit. Despite seven other offers from Pac 12 schools (Arizona, Arizona State, Washington, Washington State, Oregon, UCLA and Cal), Vera-Tucker eventually committed to USC.
The COVID-19 pandemic created many difficult decisions for college football players. This included Alijah Vera-Tucker, as he originally opted out of the 2020 season. This was due to the Pac 12 conference announcing that the fall season would be postponed. But, the conference ultimately announced that they would resume fall football activities. Vera-Tucker reversed his opt out decision as a result, and the opt in gave him a new opportunity at USC. That was the chance at moving from left guard to left tackle. Overall, he impressed and improved his draft stock even more.
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Vera-Tucker provides a consistent, strong punch at the point of attack. He does a nice job of keeping his hands active and making punches roll quickly. It is evident that his power stands out, especially when blocking down in run blocking reps. At the same time, he keeps his hands under control. You see a blocker who rarely lets his hands or arms get too wide and wrapped around the opposing defender. Moreover, keeping those hands inside also helps strengthen an already stout anchor and lower half. This aspect of Vera-Tucker’s game also helps to cover up the less developed parts of this prospect entering the NFL level.
This was still a strength in 2020 for Alijah Vera-Tucker. However, this stood out more when he was playing left guard in 2019. Over and over again, you can see a player with a good sense of staying under control and not getting too high from the jump of the snap. Using the smooth lower half, Vera-Tucker has a keen quick first step to get an early jump in order to blow opponents back. Another facet of the blocker’s game that shines because of his good sense of leverage, is Vera-Tucker’s explosiveness. I would say his blocks provide a greater sense of explosiveness and being technically sufficient, rather than being stronger than opponents.
What stood out instantly when watching Alijah Vera-Tucker, was his ability to keep his head on swivel. His ability to diagnose blitzes in pre-snap is better than most offensive linemen when they enter the league. Trying to throw exotic looks, stunts and twists against Vera-Tucker just does not work. He processes defenders trying to switch either inside out, or outside in very quickly. As a potential prospect of the Kansas City Chiefs, this would fit in well with the offense. How? With plays needing sufficient time to develop downfield for one, Patrick Mahomes needs ample time to scan all levels of the field. An instinctive and a very aware blocker up front like Vera-Tucker would be a huge upgrade.
This is an issue that stuck out largely in 2020 at left tackle. His arm length is just not there. Consequently, he cannot use any sense of smoothness as an asset. If he can keep the opponent or the play moving vertically, he is just fine. Nonetheless, Vera-Tucker will still need to become more technical as a inline blocker, even though that is already a finer part of his game.
There is certainly other offensive linemen in the draft class that are not superior athletically. Though, Vera-Tucker is someone who can hide some of that in diminutive ways. One area where he struggles is with his footwork, however. There is evidence of Vera-Tucker having more trouble with blocks when being forced to move laterally. When facing speed rushers or guys with natural bend, there were many times where he was left chasing them. Finding a way to transition more smoothly will be of upmost importance in this prospect’s development. To boot, keeping his lower half more active and not allowing his feet to become too heavy is another area of improvement.
We discussed this a little bit earlier on. The bottom line for Vera-Tucker is that he wins reps more with explosion and power, rather than strength. And once again, the move to left tackle opened up more of the issues in play strength. He did hold his own on the outside better than some anticipated. Yet, developing a certain physicality or nasty nature is something that just cannot be taught or coached. This does not necessarily mean that Vera-Tucker cannot succeed. Although, that play style may be better suited in a zone blocking scheme like Kansas City’s.
It has been no secret in 2020, that the Kansas City Chiefs have an offensive line who is struggling. The greater need lies on the interior. It would not hurt to address any of the offensive line positions, though. With Alijah Vera-Tucker, his skillset fits in with the zone blocking style of the Chiefs. He does a good job of mirroring opposing defenders with that sharp hand technique. Thinking of the running game in Kansas City, someone like Clyde Edwards-Helaire would greatly appreciate Vera-Tucker. At USC, there was a dominant sense shown in reaching the second level or with combination blocks. A very technically sound blocker would be a huge upgrade upfront to protect the $500 million quarterback in Mahomes.
Be on the lookout for more FPC Chiefs draft prospect profiles throughout the winter and spring. For more great sports and NFL content, stay tuned to Full Press Coverage.
– Braden Holecek is the Kansas City Chiefs managing editor for Full Press Coverage. He covers the NFL. Like and follow on Follow @ebearcat9//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js Follow @FPC_Chiefs//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js and Facebook.