So here are five things to know about the Patriots’ newest player.
He has not yet played in an NFL regular season game.
It’s really hard to gauge how good Wheatley is for the simple reason that he hasn’t recorded a shot in a significant game yet.
Wheatley has been a mainstay of the coaching staff over the past two seasons. He joined the Bears’ practice squad in 2021 after being cut at the end of training camp, and kept a spot on the practice unit the entire season.
After the Bears moved on from Wheatley, the tackle signed with the Raiders through the 2022 season. He spent most of his training camp in Las Vegas before he was cut.
Wheatley ended up in Cleveland shortly after the regular season began in 2022, again with his coaching staff. He stayed there all year, and the Browns kept him through the offseason and most of training camp before being traded on Sunday.
He impressed in training camp and in the pre-season, playing both positions.
Although Wheatley has not yet played in any official matches, he appears to be heading in the right direction.
Wheatley looked at both left tackle and right tackle on the Browns’ backup offensive unit during training camp and pre-season. He also earned decent grades in the two preseason games he played, earning a grade of 86.1 from Pro Football Focus for his performance.
Wheatley was recorded for 61 takes at left tackle and 37 takes at right tackle, and had a 95.6 career run score with a pass-blocking efficiency of 97.6 in games against the Eagles and Chiefs, per PFF.
Those performances were just 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 said He told reporters during the camp. “This is the guy who, oh my God, was the ultimate a few years ago, and moved not only from a position of skill, but to a position of power. He’s just added weight. He’s about 330 pounds now, so we feel like he’s still growing in his body, He’s still making adjustments.
“But he’s really athletic, he’s shown the ability to get to the edge and pass the protection against rushers with good pace. 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 throughout his collegiate career. He started at Michigan, and missed most of his freshman season with a foot injury as he was a four-star recruit in the class of 2015. He became a contributor to the Wolverines over the next two seasons, playing in 22 games.
But Wheatley did not produce much on the stat list during his time at Ann Arbor. He recorded just six receptions for 61 yards and a touchdown over the 2016 and 2017 seasons.
Whitley transferred to Stony Brook, moving from FBS to FCS to become eligible immediately 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 after that year, heading to Morgan State, but did not play in a single game for the program in 2019.
So, if the Patriots use any six offensive linemen this season, which they have done in the past, they might make Wheatley the eligible receiver for the set.
He’s had an unusual path to the NFL.
Since Wheatley has been a part of three different college football programs, he hasn’t done much to impress NFL teams prior to the 2020 NFL Draft.
Not only did Whitley go undrafted that year, but he also went undrafted throughout the 2020 season and the regular season.
For the vast majority of players, being unsigned for so long will mark the end of their gaming days. But Wheatley decided to continue playing, and joined the Spring League in 2021. He played for the Blues in the Development League that season.
That’s also when Wheatley made the switch from tight end to offensive tackle. With his 6-foot-6 frame, Whitley’s move made sense. However, he had to increase his size. Wheatley was listed at £265 in his only season at Stony Brook in 2017. He was up to £290 by the time he signed for the Bears in 2021. He was recently listed at £320 as he enters his third season playing tackle offensive.
Whitley is not the only member of his family who plays professional football.
Decades before he played at Michigan, Wheatley’s father starred for the Wolverines at an entirely different position. Tyrone Whitley Sr. was a star running back for Michigan from 1991-1994, rushing for over 1,000 yards in each of his final three seasons at the school. He was already named Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year in 1992 and was named first-team All-Big Ten three times during his playing days at Michigan.
These strong numbers helped Whitley be selected by the Giants in the first round of the 1995 NFL Draft. After four disappointing seasons in New York, the Giants traded Whitley to the Dolphins prior to the 1999 season, but he was cut during training camp that year.
Wheatley eventually debuted 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 known as “Tuck rule game.“
Wheatley’s career ended after the 2004 season and his next season as coach began soon after. He has served as a running backs coach for three different NFL teams (Bales, Jaguars, and Broncos). He was also Michigan’s linebackers coach for two of his son’s seasons with the program and was the head coach of Morgan State when the younger Wheatley moved there in 2019.
Wheatley is currently the head coach of the Wayne State University football team.