On Monday, the football analytics site Pro Football Focus published another first-round mock of the 2021 NFL Draft — this one authored by Seth Galina. In this mock, the Kansas City Chiefs use the 31st pick to acquire a guard.
31. Kansas City Chiefs: G Alijah Vera-Tucker, USC
We don’t know about the interior of the Chiefs offensive line right now. We assume that the tackles will be healthy again to start next season, but with Laurent Duvernay-Tardif taking a year off and Kelechi Osemele getting injured during the season, they might need immediate help at the position. The players who stood in at guard throughout the 2020 season did not perform up to Chiefs levels.
Key Change: The Kansas City guards went from second in our pass-blocking efficiency metric in the 2019 regular season to 13th in 2020, and it got worse as the season went on. Vera Tucker changes that in a hurry.
With this pick, Galina seems pretty certain that Chiefs tackles Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz will be recover from their injuries in time for the season to begin — or that the Chiefs will be able to cover for them in other ways. In Galina’s estimation, Vera-Tucker will be the first interior offensive lineman off the board. Meanwhile, tackles Dillon Radunz, Walker Little, Sam Cosmi, Alex Leatherwood and Liam Eichenberg would all still be available at 31. Galina has Oklahoma State tackle Teven Jenkins coming off the board with pick 30.
Thoughts from the AP Draft Team (Matt Lane)
Matt noted in November that Vera-Tucker has the versatility to play both inside and outside.
Vera-Tucker played offensive guard for USC last season. Initially, he had opted out of this season — but late in the process, he decided to play. He’s made a seamless transition to offensive tackle.
Vera-Tucker’s draft stock is going to suffer from his lack of elite physical traits. He isn’t an elite athlete. He doesn’t possess elite strength. He isn’t an unnaturally large human by NFL standards — and so on.
He is, however, above average in just about all of the areas that give him a quality base from which to work. Vera-Tucker is at his best when he’s controlling a rep with his hands — and the angles into which he can work his body. He’s constantly looking to get his hands into the most advantageous spot — not just to hold his block, but also so that he can work his hips around the defender and create a more secure block. He has the hip mobility needed to open up and pull, get out into space on screens and mirror pass rushers. In 2019, Vera-Tucker was an excellent left guard — but 2020’s early returns show he’s more than just a guard.
Now at left tackle, Vera-Tucker hopes that his continued strong play will demonstrate his versatility and improve his draft stock. If he can maintain his level of play, he could nearly guarantee first-round status. And as we know, the Chiefs love linemen who have the versatility to play both inside and outside.
Highlights (against Utah 2020)
The Chiefs are projected for eight picks in the 2021 NFL Draft, which begins on Thursday, April 29.
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