Alijah Vera-Tucker is not just one of the better young players on the New York Jets. Experts have pegged him to be one of the rising stars in the NFL this season.
The respected Pro Football Focus released a list of 10 breakout players from the 2021 NFL Draft and Vera-Tucker is listed fifth. The criteria for being on the list is a player must be entering his third season and has yet to make the Pro Bowl or be selected as an All-Pro. In another ranking, PFF lists Vera-Tucker as the 11th best guard in the entire NFL.
The 23-year-old was the No. 14 overall pick in the 2021 draft. He was New York’s second selection in the first round after quarterback Zach Wilson was taken with the No. 2 overall pick.
— Michael Nania (@Michael_Nania) January 29, 2023
Vera-Tucker excelled starting all 17 games as a rookie, earning an overall grade of 66.8 per PFF. With the Jets offensive line ravaged by injury last season, Vera-Tucker started three games at right guard, one at left tackle and three at right tackle before sustaining a torn pectoral muscle in Week 7 against the Denver Broncos.
The injury wiped out the rest of AVT’s season. Former offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur called Vera-Tucker’s flexibility and willingness to play any position on the line “selfless.” The former USC star was a standout despite moving around so much. He finished with a 71.8 overall grade per PFF, including a 76.5 run blocking grade.
“Speaking of potential forces on the interior offensive line, that’s exactly what Vera-Tucker has looked capable of, though his career so far has been disrupted by being moved around the offensive line some and a season-ending injury midway through 2022,” Gordon McGuiness of Pro Football Focus wrote Thursday.
Jets' 2021 Draft Class largely disappointing after two seasons
Outside of Vera-Tucker, the Jets’ 2021 Draft Class has been disappointing. Wilson will back up Aaron Rodgers in 2023 after two failed seasons as QB1 with the Jets. Second-round pick Elijah Moore was traded to the Cleveland Browns this offseason after two so-so years in New York. And running back Michael Carter, a fourth-round pick, averaged 3.5 yards per carry last season, underwhelming after starter Breece Hall went down with a torn ACL.
One other bright spot is cornerback Michael Carter II. The fifth-round pick has played exceptionally well in two seasons as the nickel. Fifth-rounder Jamien Sherwood has a chance to be New York’s third linebacker this season if Kwon Alexander is not re-signed.