The dynamics of the Miami Dolphins’ first selection in the 2021 NFL Draft are well debated. We know what is at stake for a Dolphins team that is aligning to provide the best possible supporting cast possible to their second-year quarterback, Tua Tagovailoa. Whether Miami opts for an offensive weapon (Kyle Pitts), a wide receiver or a top-flight tackle — expectations are that we’ll see the Dolphins nail down an offensive prospect with their first pick.
But the selection at No. 18 overall is beginning to generate a debate of its own. For quite some time, the consensus among Dolphins fans was that the team needed to use the pick to draft Alabama running back Najee Harris to pair alongside Tagovailoa in the backfield. But the positional value of a back that early feels like it may be something that flies in the face of Miami’s team-building approach with this current regime.
And if the pick isn’t used for Harris, what direction may we see the Dolphins go?
One new contender quickly becoming a persistent option in mock drafts is USC offensive lineman Alijah Vera-Tucker. There are a number of dynamics that would make Vera-Tucker’s addition intriguing for the Dolphins, — starting first and foremost with his history with Dolphins left tackle Austin Jackson. Miami, ironically enough, drafted Jackson in the exact same position in last year’s draft — and Jackson played that previous college season with Vera-Tucker playing guard to his right as the Trojans’ left guard. So you know there’s some chemistry there. And with Jackson off to the pro level in 2020, Vera-Tucker transitioned outside and played tackle himself this past season.
That level of positional versatility is certainly going to grab the attention of the Dolphins, who prioritized positional flexibility at numerous stops along the way during this 2-year rebuild. Vera-Tucker’s experience at both tackle and guard means the team would have plenty of options to mix and match before settling on the best combination of five players up front; and if someone goes down, the line can be shuffled accordingly.
The big question with Vera-Tucker: does he fit the Dolphins’ previously measured standards of an offensive lineman up front? The team has a pretty consistent “type” they’re looking for in offensive linemen: the team likes size and lower body explosiveness from their blockers up front.
Vera-Tucker showed up at his Pro Day at 6-foot-4.5 and 308 pounds.
This makes him a little lighter than what the Dolphins’ trend has suggested they’ll covet — as Ereck Flowers and Solomon Kindley average 341 pounds as the projected starting guards. Austin Jackson and Robert Hunt, the projected starting tackles, average 324 pounds. This isn’t to say that Vera-Tucker can’t bulk up and add mass, but doing so would threaten some of what made him great as a prospect in 2020 at USC.
Will the Dolphins care to take on that challenge? Or will the team look for someone who fits their mold more clearly? You won’t find us slotting Vera-Tucker to the Dolphins in any mock drafts between now and the end of the month, but the NFL Draft is unpredictable and you can never say never!