The New York Giants did not prioritize adding to their offensive line during the 2017 NFL Draft, waiting until the sixth round to select offensive tackle Adam Bisnowaty. They did sign some interesting offensive line prospects as undrafted free agents, including former USC left tackle Chad Wheeler.
GM Jerry Reese singled out Wheeler as a player he was happy to bring to the Giants:
"Wheeler was a left tackle at USC. He had some issues. I think probably the reason he didn't get drafted is there were some off-field issues people were concerned with. But to get him as a free agent, we feel like he has a chance if he has his head on right. He was a talented player, but some off-field issues probably kept him from getting drafted,” Reese said.
What can Wheeler do for the Giants in 2017? Let’s consider that as we continue our player-by-player profiles of the team’s 90-man roster.
2016 Season In Review
Wheeler finished off a career at USC that saw excel as a four-year starter. I have used this summary before, but here is what CBS Sports draft analyst Dane Brugler wrote about Wheeler in his 2017 NFL Draft Guide:
A four-year starter at USC, Wheeler earned the left tackle job early in his career and didn’t relinquish the post despite multiple injuries and setbacks, finishing his Trojans career with 45 career starts. He has a NFL frame with the movement skills to cut off speed and handle edge quickness around the corner. Wheeler trusts his technique, but has obvious core strength issues, limiting his ability to drop his hips and anchor. He doesn’t match power-for-power and struggles to sustain blocks. His collegiate résumé, including First Team All-Pac 12 honors as a senior, looks great on paper, but his checkered medical and off-field history are both red flags. Overall, Wheeler has the natural athleticism and talent to compete for starting reps in the NFL, which will also depend on his reliability.
2017 Season Outlook
The Giants used Wheeler as the second-team left tackle behind Ereck Flowers during OTAs and mandatory mini-camp. That doesn’t mean they see the 6-foot-6, 310-pound rookie as a threat to Flowers, or even as the 2017 backup, but it does indicate they see him as a potential future left tackle.
One look at his frame tells you that Wheeler is going to have to get stronger to be a legitimate NFL lineman. So does the fact that his 15 bench-press reps of 225 pounds puts him in the second percentile of tested offensive linemen. Here is his odd-looking spider chart, which shows some really good physical traits and some really awful athletic ones compared to other players at his position:
My view? I believe Wheeler is likely headed to the practice squad, where he can work on getting stronger for a year. If the Giants don’t sign someone like Ryan Clady as a veteran swing tackle, Bisnowaty or Justin Pugh seem like the probable fill-in options should something happen to Ereck Flowers.