Last spring, Joe Douglas took aggressive steps to acquire Elijah Vera-Tucker, and early results show the deal is paying off.
The Jets traded the 23rd, 66th, and 86th overall picks to the Vikings for the 14th overall pick for Vera-Tucker’s 2021 draft pick. After his rookie season, it looks like it could be a slam dunk.
“I feel like everything went well. Obviously, there have been some ups and downs from a personal standpoint,” Vera-Tucker said after meeting with reporters after the season finale against the Bills. “I feel like this rookie year has taken some time to appreciate this life in the NFL, it was a great opportunity for me.”
Vera-Tucker wasn’t always perfect, but the Jets couldn’t expect greatness in their first year.
But there were many games where Vera-Tucker looked like a seasoned professional.
The former USC standout has shown signs of becoming a force in the run-blocking game. And while it wasn’t always consistent, Vera-Tucker showed impressive athleticism. He can cross the line of scrimmage or block two blitz defenders in pass defense to give his QB enough time to land his shot.
Mike White’s touchdown to Braxton Berrios against the Bengals is a prime example of this.
In a run game, Vera-Tucker can deploy a defensive hold twice and then quickly move to the second level and quickly hook onto the linebacker.
The Jets’ offense averaged 4.3 yards while running to the left, which isn’t bad but leaves room for improvement.
Vera-Taker should be better at passing defense. He allowed 42 pressures (34 rushes, six QBs and two sacks), according to Pro Football Focus, the sixth most by an NFL defenseman. Growth in this area will come with time as he gets stronger and improves his technique.
“I think there is always room for improvement. From what I can say now, without delving into every game in detail, I would say that this is a pro,” Vera-Taker said. “I would definitely like to get better at it. I know my strengths and weaknesses with this. Also in the running game. I just always want to be brutal in the run and pass game. I feel like I was able to show it this season. But I definitely need to go well, just tricks and stuff like that. The opportunity to simply improve your skills.
The three picks after Zach Wilson were Vera-Tucker, Elijah Moore and Michael Carter, and all three showed they were building blocks. The offensive four could be the nucleus that changes the course of the franchise.
“This year’s rookie class is really exciting, everyone is using this year to grow up and things like that, getting used to playing in the NFL,” Vera-Tucker said. “I’m excited about this. I know everyone else is raving about it. Go into this off-season and see what we did right and what we didn’t, watch the tape and just get better.”
All in all, Vera-Tucker’s rookie year showed he could be the best quarterback in the NFL. He has already shown promise in the running game and he admits his pass blocking needs to be improved.
Trading up to the 14th peak brings early dividends.