The USC Trojans left tackle Chad Wheeler will enter the draft this season after a run from 2012 to 2016. Wheeler’s size at 6’6”, 310 pounds makes him an intriguing pick, with plenty of raw talent and tons of length to reach blocks. On the downside, he has real problems in run blocking and getting to the edge on really fast pass rushers speed rush.
After watching film on Wheeler a few things jump off the screen. He does a really great job in his man to man assignments in pass protection, using his size and length to make a shield and gets his man to go outside. This gives the quarterback a deep pocket to step up into. On run plays when he is the pulling tackle to the opposite side he also does a great job getting up to the next level, sealing the hash marks off and giving the running back a nice lane between linemen and receivers to take the ball upfield.
However, if the rusher can get an inside move on Wheeler with speed it is a done deal. He also showed weakness when his side of the line was loaded with extra rushers he had trouble passing off the double team to the guard and shifting to tighten the line. In these spots his freeze would allow him to get bull rushed, pushing him into his quarterback. While he has some really nice size, his mechanics need sharpening.
Pro Comparison -
Wheeler has great size and speed off the snap, but definitely has some flaws in his game which makes his game to game performance somewhat bipolar. His pro comparison is Donald Stephenson, tackle for the Denver Broncos.
Stephenson is a tackle with a lot of upside and but also has some trouble getting beat on speed rush outside and twists inside. Last season he had a phenomenal game against Kahlil Mack in Oakland, staving off the defensive player of the year. But against Kansas City when Justin Houston made his return he had five flags during the game as he struggled with Houston’s inside pass rush.
Just like the Bronco, Wheeler can be a great player and has upside but will need to work on the little things to pair with raw talent. Until he has solid coaching he will make mistakes that result in sacks and flags along with some really great blocks.
Landing Spots -
While probable landing spots for Wheeler will probably be the Minnesota Vikings or the Philadelphia Eagles, both teams looking to build on their lineman depth. However, he would probably put into too many reps too quickly for these teams with shallow rosters.
The best spot for Wheeler is the Miami Dolphins. Because of their stellar line, they would not need him to come in and get major reps his first year and he could work on his craft as the seventh or eighth man on the bench on a great offensive line with a great stable of backs.