Fantasy Reaction: Philip Wheeler Signs With Miami
Miami continued to overhaul its linebacker corps, signing OLB Philip Wheeler to a five-year, $26 million contract. This is another coup for the Dolphins as they’ve signed, arguably, the two best linebackers (inside/outside) available this free agency period.
Wheeler is entering his sixth season and is now with his third team in the last three seasons. He spent his first four seasons with the Colts and didn’t make an impact in IDP leagues. His rookie year saw him on the field for just 49 defensive snaps on the strong side. In 2009, Wheeler saw more action, playing a situational role in all 16 games and compiling 61 tackles at a 12.5 percent tackle frequency clip. Most importantly, Wheeler showed he could make tackles. From Week 10 on, he recorded an impressive 48 total tackles, which included six games of five or more tackles.
His 2010 season saw a reduction in snaps (just 384), but he managed to repeat his tackle total from the previous season. That was good enough for a 15.9 percent tackle frequency. Once again, inconsistent playing time and not being a three-down linebacker prevented him from being a weekly IDP option. Wheeler started to pull it together in 2011, finishing with 85 tackles on 537 snaps and grading out positively overall at +6.7 and the run at +5.6.
Despite these solid numbers, 2012 was considered Wheeler’s breakout year. In an every-down role, he played a career-high 1,043 defensive snaps and amassed 109 tackles and three sacks. He graded out as PFF’s sixth-best 4-3 OLB and second-best 4-3 OLB in the pass rush, as he compiled 30 total QBP (three sacks) in 134 pass rush snaps, getting to the QB on 22 percent of his pass rush snaps.
Wheeler’s 2012 proved he could play an every-down role and showed he’s a capable pass rusher in addition to being a solid run stopper. He’s produced a 12.3 percent tackle frequency over the past two seasons, while missing only one tackle on every 15 attempts. Now that Kevin Burnett has been released, Wheeler’s all but assured a starting role and should take over the strong-side role, provided the Dolphins stick with the 4-3.
He has increased his numbers since joining the league, and he’s hitting the prime of his career, which bodes well for his IDP production this season. He should have plenty of chances to rush the QB, and even with Dannell Ellerbe in tow, he’ll have his chances to make tackles. In most balanced scoring formats, he finished within the top-30 scoring linebackers and should provide LB3 value with LB2 upside this season. With a current ADP outside the top 40 linebackers, Wheeler has solid value.
Mike Woellert is a Senior Writer for Pro Football Focus Fantasy. Follow Mike on Twitter @PFF_MWoellert