Pro Football Focus has high expectations for New York Jets rookie Alijah Vera-Tucker, as he appeared in the outlet’s top 30 IOL rankings.
It’s been a good time for interior linemen from the New York Jets to visit Pro Football Focus.
In addition to an NFL-best four interior defenders appearing in their top 30, PFF invited two New York blockers into the offensive side of things. Greg Van Roten came in at No. 26 with Alijah Vera-Tucker coming in four spots later at No. 30.
The inclusion of Vera-Tucker, one of two first-round picks in New York, is particularly surprising. Chosen 14th overall after a draft-day trade with Minnesota, the USC alum is the only rookie to appear in the ranking. PFF analyst Sam Monson cited Vera-Tucker’s success in Los Angeles as the catalyst for the confidence.
“This may look foolish by the end of the season, but Alijah Vera-Tucker is too good a prospect for us to assume he won’t be good right out of the gate,” Monson says. “Vera-Tucker allowed just 16 total pressures on almost 1,000 snaps of pass protection.”
Though the left tackle role that Vera-Tucker played in 2020 has already been filled by his new teammate and fellow first-round pick Mekhi Becton, the Jets plan to line Vera-Tucker up next to Becton at left guard, which is where Vera-Tucker played in 2019.
“Before this year, Alijah was a left guard and he was a really good left guard,” Jets head coach Robert Saleh said of Vera-Tucker this year, per Max Goodman of Sports Illustrated. “Now, this year he was a really good left tackle. So obviously, him playing on the left side for the majority of his career, being in that left-handed stance, being comfortable in that left-handed stance…I’m sure it wouldn’t be a problem for him being in a right-handed stance either.”
Also on the list is Greg Van Roten, who is set to enter his second season in green. The former Carolina Panther became a staple on a Jets offensive line decimated by injuries, appearing in every snap over his first 11 games before he was lost to a toe injury that kept him out for three games. He returned for the season finale. Van Roten is a native of Rockville Centre on Long Island and previously starred at Chaminade High School.
“Van Roten has been a consistently above-average pass-blocker in the NFL, even if his run blocking has been less than ideal on a similarly consistent basis,” Monson writes. “In his first season with the Jets, he allowed 24 total pressures [in] 13 games of action.”
The Jets have undergone a complete overhaul of the offensive line over the past few seasons, spending first-round picks on linemen in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1977-79 (Marvin Powell/Chris Ward). Building up the blocking has become a crucial endeavor with the arrival of Vera-Tucker’s fellow 2021 first-round pick Zach Wilson taking on the franchise quarterback role.
Quenton Nelson of the Indianapolis Colts topped the PFF list, followed by Zack Martin of the Dallas Cowboys and newly minted Kansas City Chief Joe Thuney.
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags