The Future 2021 NFL Draft Prospects: Aleja Vera-Tucker
Aleja Vera-Tucker has started at both left tackle and left guard the past two seasons while at USC with the 2020 season being where he lined up as a left tackle. He is a super athletic lineman who has shown very good versatility with the ability to play both tackle and guard positions. I see him moving back to guard in the NFL due to his lack of length where he was measured at 32 1/8 inch arms which is below average for an NFL tackle.
Pass Protection- He is very good in pass protection, when lined up at left tackle his length is below average but it didn't show up too much on tape. He has a good combination of strong, accurate hands along with quick feet to drop into his pass set. His balance is good as he doesn't bend at his hips and he bends at his knees. There are times where he can be a little too quick in his pass set to the outside which will open up lanes for edge rushers to dive inside him but this shouldn't be too big of a problem if he is bumped inside to guard.
Lateral Mobility- Tucker is a very smooth athlete who moves well. In pass pro, he can easily change direction when edge rushers try to dive inside. He moves well when run blocking as he can get to the 2nd level and block smaller, quicker defenders with ease.
Length- He doesn't possess the ideal length to line up as a left tackle and it will most likely result in him being moved inside to guard. There was one particular matchup where he struggled against Oregon's Kayvon Thibodeaux who is an elite edge rusher who possesses elite length.
Hands- His hands in pass protection are very good. He does a good job of keeping his hands inside the pads of the rusher and if/when he does miss or when they are swiped away he does a very good job of consistently replacing/adjusting to get his hands back on the defender. In the run game, he has that good initial hand pop to jolt defenders off the ball.
Zone Block- He fits well into a zone running concept with his athletic ability and fluid movements. He works well in space and works to the 2nd level of the defense very well. His lateral mobility is one of his best traits and it shows often in the zone concept. There are times though where he can almost look confused and not know who to block in the run game.
Power Block- The great thing about Tucker is he is not only versatile in his ability to play multiple positions but he can easily fit into multiple schemes. In the power scheme, he has the combination of power and athleticism to fit well, he can lead block as a pulling lineman or when running screens. He has the power to drive defenders off the ball, moves people in double teams, and again works to the second level very well.
Power at POA- His power at the POA is very good, his initial pop in the run game is fantastic. When aligned as a left tackle he can consistently drive defenders off the ball, he is quick off the ball, and has excellent functional strength. Whether he lines up as a tackle or a guard he can consistently win with his power at the point of attack.
Anchor- His anchor is solid but I think this is where his length can hurt him the most as some of the better/longer edge rushers he went against were able to get under his pads and move him backward. Defenders getting under his pads resulted in his pads being too high. His functional strength is very good though and he has the flexibility and competitive toughness to battle against just about anybody.
Versatility- His versatility has been mentioned a lot above but again he can line up just about anywhere which is huge in the NFL when anybody can get seriously injured on just about any play and being able to plug and play a guy like Tucker at any position is massive for his draft stock as he is more then capable of playing at both guard and tackles positions and if need be he could play center as well.
Athletic Ability/Size- He has good overall size to line up as either a tackle or guard with the only concern coming with his length when lining up as a tackle. He is a very good athlete with his ability to move with ease in both pass pro and the run game.