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Does WR Robert Wheelwright have real chance with Giants?

Ex-Wisconsin Badger is one of team’s undrafted free agents

NCAA Football: Akron at Wisconsin
Robert Wheelwright
Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

Robert Wheelwright was never a star at Wisconsin, a wide receiver playing in a conservative offense. The New York Giants, though, like his skill set and athleticism enough that Wheelwright is reportedly among the undrafted free agents the Giants have signed.

With rookie mini-camp beginning Friday, let’s learn more about Wheelwright, who had a combined 66 receptions over the past two seasons for the Badgers.

Jake Kocorowski of SB Nation’s Wisconsin blog, Bucky’s 5th Quarter, says:

I think Wheelwright has a shot to do something in the league. He has the measurables (6'3”, 202 pounds according to last year's roster) and had a really solid pro day (4.54-second 40-yard dash, 38-inch vertical jump, 128.5-inch broad jump, 4.11-second short shuttle, and 6.68-second three-cone drill). In person, he looks the part, as the Columbus, Ohio native is chiseled.

Wheelwright never actually redshirted during his Wisconsin career. He saw some action in his first two seasons, but as noted by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Jeff Potrykus last year, he only caught three passes combined and had some injuries and confidene issues to deal with. That appeared to change when Paul Chryst came on as head coach, and he was on pace for a breakout junior year until he broke his leg against Illinois in October 2015. He still finished with 32 receptions with four touchdowns that season, including a great one-handed catch vs. USC in the Holiday Bowl. Last year, he caught 34 passes, averaged over 13 yards per catch and made a couple of big play receptions.

There was some hype for him to be the next great Wisconsin wide receiver. Though he may not have lived up to said hype, he can block and catch. He could stick in the NFL if he can avoid the injury bug.

B5Q also did a scouting report on Wheelwright when word got out that he would be joining the Giants:

*Height: 6030
Weight: 211
40-Yard Dash: 4.54 seconds
Three-Cone Drill: 6.68 seconds
20-Yard Shuttle: 4.11 seconds
Bench Press: 15 reps
Broad Jump: 10’8.5”
Vertical Jump: 38”

*Height and weight taken from UW’s 2016 roster; all drills performed at Wisconsin’s pro day on March 15

Strengths: Nice size for the position. Has long arms to pluck the ball out of the air. Has shown the ability to make the spectacular catch. Long-legged and covers a lot of ground quickly. Effective as a blocker. Has adequate functional strength for the position. Knows where the sticks are in crucial situations. Gains nice separation on crossing routes. Effective with the ball in his hands.

Weaknesses: Doesn’t play with the mentality that most receivers his size possess. Played the Z position for the Badgers, played it like an X. Too much finesse for his size. At times had focus drops. Didn’t dominate smaller corners when given the opportunity.

Summary: A bit of an underachiever. Wheelwright has all of the physical tools, but hasn’t quite lived up to his four-star status. Was a dependable receiver for the last two seasons for the Badgers. Doesn’t play as big as his size suggests. Will likely play the X in the NFL, despite playing the Z in Madison. Needs to get stronger, and develop more of a mean streak. Will get a camp invite, and could stick as a practice squad player for a year or two before getting a chance at a main roster.

Does he have a chance?

That’s a question the folks at B5Q asked me for a piece they did on Wheelwright’s opportunity with the Giants. Here is part of what I said:

“I think it’s a real long shot for him to make the roster, barring a rash of injuries. If he can show the Giants some value and contribute on special teams during the preseason, maybe he lands on the practice squad. That’s a foot in the door, and you never know what happens from there.”

Occasionally, players end up being better at the pro level than they were at the college level. Can Wheelwright be one of those? His opportunity begins on Friday.