Looking to add depth to their offensive line for Sunday’s divisional round matchup against the Packers, the Seahawks promoted third-year tackle Chad Wheeler from the practice squad on Wednesday.
Revisiting his scouting archives, Rob Rang looks back at his notes on Wheeler coming out of USC in 2017.
In a class full of offensive tackles with plenty of questions on the field, the biggest concerns with Wheeler - a four-year starting left tackle and 2016 First Team Pac-12 pick - might be off it.
He has struggled with various injuries over his career and drew headlines for an altercation with police in December of 2015 that led to his suspension for the Holiday Bowl, a two-point loss to Wisconsin in which the Trojans surrendered nine tackles for loss, including three sacks.
If the NFL has proven reliable in anything over the years, however, it is its willingness to overlook character red flags in the pursuit of talent. Wheeler possesses many of the physical traits necessary to succeed at the next level, projecting as a potentially starting caliber tackle.
After redshirting his first season on campus, Wheeler started each game at the critical left tackle position in 2013, earning Freshman All-American accolades from several publications. He started the first eight contests there a year later before suffering a torn ACL against Utah and missing the final five games of the season. Wheeler returned a year later to earn Second Team All-Pac-12 honors, though he missed two more games (Utah, Wisconsin) due to injury and suspension before capping his career in 2016 with First Team honors, providing stellar pass protection for freshman phenom Sam Darnold.
Wheeler is a hulking presence with broad shoulders, a trim middle, long arms and well distributed weight. He shows good initial quickness off the snap in pass protection, generating depth with a polished, patient kick slide. There is nothing patient, however, about his use of hands. Wheeler uses his long reach and impressive strength to grab hold of opponents, rag-dolling them, at times. He anticipates counter moves well, showing the balance to slide laterally while keeping his legs bent and his butt down to maintain leverage and power. He is especially effective in the running game, creating a powerful surge at the point of attack due to his strength. Wheeler's initial burst and rare straight-line speed for the position stand out when he's asked to block at the second level, as he gobbles up yardage, surprising opponents with his ability to get downfield.
While showing terrific burst off the snap, Wheeler has a straight-linish build which impacts his flexibility and change of direction. He is vulnerable to speed rushers who can get him leaning and struggles when redirecting his charge at the second level as a run blocker. Too often Wheeler gets downfield only to miss his intended target because of this stiffness. The NFL will want to investigate a bizarre altercation December 19, 2015 with Los Angeles police that ultimately led to Wheeler getting suspended from the team for the Holiday Bowl. Wheeler was not arrested and was ultimately reinstated by head coach Clay Helton, though only reportedly following a psychiatric evaluation. Wheeler comes with a lengthy list of medical issues, which require close inspection by NFL doctors at the Combine. He missed time in the spring prior to the 2016 season with plantar fasciitis, an injury to the bottom of his foot. He suffered at least two concussions while at USC and missed the final five games of the 2014 season after suffering a torn ACL in his right knee. Previously, Wheeler missed time during his senior season of high school (2011) due to a shoulder injury, which also required surgery.
Wheeler's size, speed, and experience in a pro-style scheme are sure to generate plenty of interest in the blocker-needy NFL. Wheeler comes with some plenty of red flags on and off the field, however, and the fact that he did not participate in any senior all-star games is an indication that some, at least, may be wary of him. As such, Wheelers' interviews at the Combine could wind up critical to his draft stock.