Should the New York Giants consider drafting USC’s Alijah Vera-Tucker in round one?

Anthony Rivardo
Dec 18, 2020; Los Angeles, California, USA; Southern California Trojans offensive lineman Alijah Vera-Tucker (75) during the Pac-12 Championship against the Oregon Ducks at United Airlines Field at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Oregon defeated USC 31-24. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Giants have their options open ahead of the 2021 NFL Draft. The Giants addressed two of their top weaknesses in free agency, signing a top-tier wide receiver in Kenny Golladay and a new outside cornerback in Adoree’ Jackson. This means the Giants are not forced to draft for need in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft.

The Giants could still draft a playmaker or cornerback with the eleventh overall pick. But now they do not have to. The Giants are in position to draft the best player available. That player could be an offensive lineman, a wide receiver, a tight end, or a linebacker. New York’s excellent free agency period has set them up perfectly for the upcoming draft.

But if the Giants do want to address a specific need in round one, there is one glaring weakness on their roster. The Giants need to upgrade the interior of their offensive line. Left guard Will Hernandez was moved to the bench half way through the 2020 season. Starting right guard Kevin Zeitler was a cap casualty. Now, the Giants’ offensive line features second-year Shane Lemieux and Will Hernandez as the projected starting offensive guards.

The Giants will not reap the benefits of their upgraded offensive playmakers if the offensive line does not allow Daniel Jones to spread the ball around. It could behoove New York to target an interior offensive lineman in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft. The top offensive guard for the Giants to target in round one is USC’s Alijah Vera-Tucker.

Why Alijah Vera-Tucker makes sense for the Giants

Alijah Vera-Tucker is an interesting, versatile offensive line prospect. Pro Football Focus’s top-ranked interior offensive lineman in this year’s class, Vera-Tucker actually spent the 2020 season playing offensive tackle. Alijah was the starting left tackle for USC this season and he played as one of the best tackles in the country. According to PFF, Vera-Tucker was the highest-graded offensive tackle on true pass sets this season with a grade of 89.2.

We already knew Vera-Tucker was a very good guard, but it took him kicking out to tackle in 2020 to see just how much of an all-around player he really is. – Michael Renner of Pro Football Focus

Alijah Vera-Tucker might make a lot of sense for the Giants in this year’s draft. However, he might not make sense for them with the eleventh overall pick in the draft. That might not be the best value for Vera-Tucker as he is a prospect that is often projected to be drafted in the second half of the first round.

This does, though, open up the possibility for the Giants to target Alijah Vera-Tucker in a trade down scenario. The Giants could trade down to the second half of the first round, draft Vera-Tucker as their new starting offensive guard, and gain additional draft picks in the middle rounds. That would make for two key acquisitions. The Giants could land a starting offensive lineman and increased draft capital.

Alijah Vera-Tucker is a talented offensive line prospect that would make for an instant upgrade on the Giants’ offensive line. Vera-Tucker does have short arms (32 1/8″) and small hands (9 5/8″), which is why he is projected as a guard rather than a tackle (Jordan Reid). He did play well at tackle in 2020, but being undersized, he projects as a guard at the next level.

His ability to kick out to tackle could make him more attractive to the Giants, though, a team that emphasizes versatility. Alijah Vera-Tucker is a powerful prospect, putting up 36 reps on the bench at his Pro Day. Vera-Tucker could be just what the Giants need as they look to protect Daniel Jones entering his third professional season.