The 2017 NFL Combine should give left tackle Chad Wheeler a chance to lift his draft stock by showing off his length and athleticism in Indianapolis.
A four-year starter for USC football, Chad Wheeler finished off his career with an All-American nod and a Rose Bowl victory as one of the Trojans’ most dependable offensive linemen.
Wheeler emerged as a starter as a redshirt freshman in 2013 and held that job through his final season of eligibility in 2016, picking up All-Pac-12 first team honors along the way.
Now, having earned a place at the 2017 NFL Combine in Indianapolis, Wheeler’s next step is growing his draft profile in front of pro scouts.
Scouting Report and Draft Stock
Many of the draft evaluations for Wheeler come back with a similar conclusion — he’s a good prospect, but not a great one.
At 6-foot-6, Wheeler’s length is a definite plus in his corner.
Lance Zierlein of NFL.com described Wheeler as “a move blocker with the ability to operate confidently in space while lacking the power to whip the man across from him.”
Jon Dove of WithTheFirstPick.com also noted Wheeler’s “best attribute is his overall athleticism and movement skills,” drawing particular attention to the tackle’s ability to pull and get to the second level.
ESPN’s draft evaluation for Wheeler praised his game intelligence, calling him a “quick processer” while also noting his stamina and urgency in-game. That’s something Zierlein echoed in his scouting report, calling Wheeler “competitive with high football character.”
However, Zierlein wondered if footwork concerns might see Wheeler move inside to guard at the NFL level.
The trouble for Wheeler, according to draft evaluations, is consistency. Zierlein and ESPN each called attention to inconsistent pad level and the trouble that might give him in the pros.
The other big red flag for Wheeler is his track record with injury and the off-the-field issue which saw him miss the 2015 Holiday Bowl.
Wheeler suffered a season-ending knee injury in 2014 and missed the start of USC’s 2016 campaign with a foot problem.
Considering those concerns, Wheeler has been projected anywhere from the third round to a Day 3 pick, with room to rise.
What Can He Improve at the Combine?
Wheeler finished out the 2016 season without an injury concern, but teams will certainly want to see no lingering issues from his knee or foot during medical tests at the Combine.
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The interview process could also be intensive for the 45-game starter because of the one game he missed due to a conduct issue. Wheeler’s run-in with police ahead of the Holiday Bowl reportedly ended with him under psychiatric evaluation at the hospital.
Though no charges were ever brought in relation to the incident, there are still questions the lineman will need to answer on that front when he meets with teams.
On a football level, Wheeler’s technique and polish will be under a microscope during positional drills. Acing those could give him a solid boost in terms of draft stock, especially with his size and athleticism on display.