The New York Giants didn’t make any major offseason moves on their beleaguered offensive line, but as Saturday’s 4 p.m. ET roster cut down to 53 players drew near it seemed inevitable there would be some intrigue — at least when it came to the backup players the team would keep.
That proved to be the case as the Giants have chosen to keep Chad Wheeler, an undrafted rookie free agent offensive tackle from USC. Wheeler went undrafted largely because of off-the-field concerns.
The Giants kept Wheeler instead of Adam Bisnowaty, the team’s sixth-round pick. That decision makes Bisnowaty the first draft pick the Giants have cut prior to his rookie season since 2009.
“Wheeler probably should have been drafted in the middle rounds somewhere. He slid on the board and we were fortunate enough to get him as a free agent,” said head coach Ben McAdoo. “He’s a talented player who has a little bit of a mean streak in him, which we like. Fundamentally, he’s coming along, and we feel he has a bright future for us.”
Giants GM Jerry Reese was happy the Giants were able to land Wheeler:
"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.
Here is a pre-draft assessment of Wheeler from Dane Brugler of CBS Sports 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.
Wheeler had good moments and bad during the preseason, but seemed to improve from game to game. You could tell from his recent comments that coach Ben McAdoo was intrigued by Wheeler.
“I think he’s coming along. I think his best days are ahead of him as a player. I think he has some versatility for us. It’s encouraging,” McAdoo said. “I think he has some flexibility to play both sides and possibly inside.”
NOTE: This story will be updated when the rest of the moves become known.