5 things to know about new Patriots OT Tyrone Wheatley Jr.

Patriots

Wheatley had a promising camp and preseason, which likely played a role in the Patriots trading for him.

Tyrone Wheatley made noise for having a standout training camp with the Browns.

The Patriots made a move to add some much-needed depth at offensive tackle on Sunday.

New England acquired Tyrone Wheatley Jr. from Cleveland in a trade, giving up 2022 fourth-round running back Pierre Strong Jr.

It’s a little early to know what role Wheatley will play, but considering the Patriots acquired him roughly 48 hours ahead of Tuesday’s roster cutdown deadline, it’s safe to assume that Wheatley will be on the 53-man roster.

So, here are five things to know about the newest Patriots player.

He’s yet to play in an NFL regular-season game.

It’s hard to really gauge just how good Wheatley is for the simple reason that he hasn’t registered a snap in a game that matters yet.

Wheatley has been a practice squad mainstay for the last two seasons. He joined the Bears’ practice squad in 2021 after he was cut at the end of training camp, holding a spot on the practice unit for the entirety of the season.

After the Bears moved on from Wheatley, the tackle signed with the Raiders during the 2022 offseason. He spent most of training camp in Las Vegas before getting cut.

Wheatley wound up in Cleveland shortly after the regular season began in 2022, signing with its practice squad. He remained there for the entire year, and the Browns kept him through the offseason and the majority of training camp before trading him on Sunday.

He impressed in training camp and the preseason, playing both tackle positions.

Even though Wheatley has yet to play in an official game, he appears to be trending in the right direction.

Wheatley got looks at both left tackle and right tackle on the Browns’ backup offensive unit over training camp and the preseason. He also graded well in the two preseason games he played, receiving an 86.1 grade from Pro Football Focus for his performance.

Wheatley was credited for 61 snaps at left tackle and 37 snaps at right tackle, earning a 95.6 run-block grade with a 97.6 pass-blocking efficiency in games against the Eagles and Commanders, per PFF.

Those performances were only a taste of what Wheatley showed during training camp practices, according to Browns offensive line coach Bill Callahan.

“We really like him a lot,” Callahan told reporters during camp. “Here’s a guy that, my God, he was a tight end a few years ago, and he’s transitioned not only from a skill position but into a power position. He’s added additional weight. He’s up around 330 pounds now, so we feel that he’s still growing into his body, he’s still making adjustments, making tweaks.

“But he’s really athletic, he’s shown the ability to get on the edge and pass protect against good speed rushers. Now it’s just a matter of putting it all together.”

He played tight end not too long ago.

As Callahan mentioned, Wheatley hasn’t been an offensive tackle for long.

Wheatley played tight end for his entire collegiate career. He began at Michigan, missing the majority of his freshman season with a foot injury as he was a four-star recruit in the class of 2015. He became a contributor for the Wolverines over the next two seasons, playing in 22 games.

But Wheatley didn’t produce much on the stat sheet during his time at Ann Arbor. He recorded just six receptions for 61 yards and a touchdown over the 2016 and 2017 seasons.

Wheatley transferred to Stony Brook, moving down from FBS to FCS to become immediately eligible in 2018. He started eight games and played in 11 total for the Seawolves, recording six receptions for 36 yards that season. He ended up transferring again following that year, heading to Morgan State, but didn’t play in a single game for the program in 2019.

So, if the Patriots use any six offensive lineman sets this season, which they’ve done in the past, maybe they’ll make Wheatley the eligible receiver of the group.

He’s had an unusual path to the NFL.

As Wheatley was a part of three different college football programs, he didn’t do much to impress NFL teams ahead of the 2020 NFL Draft.

Not only did Wheatley go undrafted that year, but he also went unsigned for the entirety of the 2020 offseason and regular season.

For the vast majority of players, going unsigned for that long would mark the end of their playing days. But Wheatley decided to keep playing, joining The Spring League in 2021. He played for the Blue in the developmental league that season.

That’s also when Wheatley made the switch from tight end to offensive tackle. With his 6-foot-6 frame, Wheatley moving over to offensive tackle made sense. He had to bulk up, though. Wheatley was listed at 265 pounds in his lone season at Stony Brook in 2017. He got to 290 pounds by the time he signed with the Bears in 2021. He was most recently listed at 320 pounds as he enters his third season playing offensive tackle.

His father was a college football star and an NFL standout.

Wheatley isn’t the only member of his family to play professional football.

Decades before he played at Michigan, Wheatley’s father starred for the Wolverines at a much different position. Tyrone Wheatley Sr. was a star running back for Michigan from 1991-94, rushing for over 1,000 yards in each of his final three seasons at the school. He actually earned Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year honors in 1992 and was named first-team All-Big Ten three times during his playing days at Michigan.

Those strong numbers helped Wheatley get selected by the Giants in the first round of the 1995 NFL Draft. Following an underwhelming four seasons in New York, the Giants traded Wheatley to the Dolphins ahead of the 1999 season but he was cut during training camp that year.

Wheatley eventually surfaced with the Raiders, joining the team shortly after his release from the Dolphins. He had his two best NFL seasons in his first two years with the Raiders, rushing for over 1,000 yards in 2000. He was also part of the Raiders team that lost to the Patriots in the 2001 playoffs in a game commonly known as “The Tuck Rule Game.“

Wheatley’s career ended after the 2004 season and he began his next chapter as a coach shortly after. He’s worked as a running backs coach for three different NFL teams (Bills, Jaguars, Broncos). He was also Michigan’s running backs coach for two of the seasons his son was with the program and was the head coach of Morgan State when the younger Wheatley transferred there in 2019.

Wheatley is currently the head coach of Wayne State University’s football team.


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