SwimSwam’s Guide To The 2021 NFL Draft

Tonight, the NFL holds its annual draft, with college prospects selected by professional franchises – it’s a night when optimism abounds, for athletes, teams, and fans.

While we at SwimSwam aren’t exactly trained to evaluate how crafty a wide receiver is at the top of his breaks, we’re lending our more swimming-centric eye to the prospect field in an eleventh-hour mock draft, evaluating some possible selections at each of the first 15 picks in tonight’s draft.

In a rare moment of blatant self-congratulation, we should point out that our swimming-centric draft correctly predicted 7 of the first 10 picks in last year’s draft, even though our analysis admittedly had very little to do with actual football. So take that, Mel Kiper.

#1 – Jacksonville Jaguars

Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson

Lawrence is considered an elite QB prospect. Think the arms of Florent Manaudou combined with the swimming IQ of Eddie Reeseplus the flowing hair of Cody MillerIn other words – the perfect swimming prospect.

#2 – New York Jets

Zach Wilson, QB, BYU

Wilson shot up draft boards in 2021, but some argue he did so by padding his stats against weak competition. It’s kind of the football equivalent of say, swimming all your best times in Uzbekistan.

#3 – San Francisco 49ers

Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State

The 49ers paid a hefty price to trade up to the third overall pick, and there’s rampant speculation about which QB they’re targeting here. Our sources say the Niners are a little concerned that Fields mostly peaked at Big Tens and didn’t hold his taper well through NCAAs… but think he’s still the best option on the board.

#4 – Atlanta Falcons

Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida

Pitts is considered a generational tight end talent, with unbelievable 4.4 speed at 6-foot-6 and 245 pounds. We heard most of those skills were acquired simply via osmosis from sharing a campus with Caeleb Dressel.

#5 – Cincinnati Bengals

Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU

For the second straight year, the Bengals take an LSU Tiger in the first round. The latest rumblings out of Cincy suggest that they’ve already got their 2022 first-round pick in mind: one Brooks Curry.

#6 – Miami Dolphins

Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon

If there’s one thing we at SwimSwam know about Miami (and we really only know one thing about Miami), it’s that everyone in that city is a crazy-good diver. So we’re especially excited to see the 6-foot-5, 325-pound Sewell throwing a reverse 3-and-a-half tuck from the 10-meter platform. We’ll probably cite Sewell (an exceptional athlete at his size) when we move Miami up to about 20th in our season-opening NFL Power Ranks, even if it makes swimming-not-diving types mad.

#7 – Detroit Lions

DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama

The Heisman Trophy-winning wideout is expected by some to slide in the draft, because he’s just too small to make it in the NFL. Maggie MacNeil heard something similar before making that concern look pretty silly. She had pretty good luck in Michigan, so we like Smith’s chances in Michigan, too.

#8 – Carolina Panthers

Rashawn Slater, OT, Northwestern

Slater is getting a lot of credit in NFL circles for his excellent results against last year’s #2 overall pick Chase Young in their Big Ten matchups. But we’re wary of placing too much stock in that. We heard Young wasn’t even tapered for those matchups and had done weights that morning and wasn’t even shaved and was in a two-year training block and Slater suited up.

#9 – Denver Broncos

Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State

Lance is one of the most exciting players in the draft, but also one of the riskiest, as a top-flight athlete, but also a major project at QB. The Broncos are doing the equivalent of recruiting a great 50 freestyler and trusting their coaching staff to develop him into a guy who can swim 100s and 200s. Call it the Zach Apple effect.

#10 – Dallas Cowboys

Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina

At #10 overall, Horn is the first defensive player taken in the draft. That teams are overwhelmingly valuing offense more highly really highlights the modern quirks (some would say flaws) in the NFL’s rules and format strongly favoring the offense. Sort of like… I don’t know, a professional swimming league where teams don’t even recruit distance swimmers because why would a team recruit distance swimmers?

#11 – New York Giants

Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama

Waddle is a lightning-fast guy from the University of Alabama. We can’t prove anything yet, but we suspect that SEC sprint backstroke standout Zane Waddell just shuffled a few letters of his last name and changed sports to enter the NFL draft. The timeline of his retirement from swimming adds up. Seriously, do your own research. There are a lot of good arguments to support this theory – plus, if you believe it, you get to start wearing this cool tinfoil hat I’ve got on.

#12 – Philadelphia Eagles

Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota

Bateman is a top-notch receiver with the versatility to play in the slot or on the outside. He went to the University of Minnesota, so we also know that his versatility has to include the ability to swim breaststroke really fast. Can you imagine that? A “Z/Flanker” receiver who can kick inside to the slot but also man the breaststroke leg of your medley relay? No NFL team can pass up that kind of talent.

#13 – Los Angeles Chargers

Quinn Meinerz, OT, Wisconsin – Whitewater

The darling of the NFL’s Senior Bowl, Meinerz is locked in an intense competition with Emory swimming alum Andrew Wilson for the title of Most Successful Division III Product of 2021. Meinerz going in the first round would be huge (the current record for highest-drafted D-III player is 61st overall). Wilson making the Olympic team would probably be bigger. Is this a bit of a reach for the Chargers over way more established tackles like Christian Darrisaw? Probably. Are we at the point where making our swimming-centric jokes is more important than accurately predicting the draft order? Absolutely.

#14 – Minnesota Vikings

Patrick Surtain, CB, Alabama

When asked how many cornerbacks his team needs, Vikings coach Mike Zimmer famously said “just one more.” What football fans don’t know is that he was actually quoting Texas swim coaching great Eddie Reese‘s opinion on how many top high school 200 freestylers he needs to recruit.

#15 – New England Patriots

Mac Jones, QB, Alabama

The Patriots wait it out and end up with McCorkle “Mac” Jones, the namesake of Ohio State’s vaunted aquatics facility, the McCorkle Aquatic Pavilion. We’re just kidding. The pool wasn’t named after a football player. (Could you imagine?). Jones himself was actually named after the pool in honor of Reese’s 10th NCAA team title won there in 2010.


Sleeper Picks To Watch

These guys aren’t going to go in the top 15, but we think they carry some major value later on in the draft. Or maybe we just have a swimming crack to make. Either way, put these guys on your dynasty fantasy football sleeper list:

Charles Snowden, CB, Virginia / Jamar Johnson, S, Indiana

SwimSwam commenter DESORBO EFFECT tells us that we’ve been, quote, “sleeping on this guy,” and that Snowden going to be the next Cavalier to come out of nowhere with a huge free relay split. Fellow commenter GUERRA has countered that Johnson is actually the defensive back NFL teams need, and will further “cement the legacy of the GOAT Ray Looze.” We’re not sure about the players themselves, but that kind of strong commentary from trusted voices will probably be enough to prompt Cowboys owner Jerry Jones to make a call from his yacht to trade up for one or both of these guys.

Payton Turner, EDGE, Houston

Most people know that new Auburn head coach Ryan Wochomurka was hired in part due to his experience building Houston from a 6th-place team in the AAC to winning five consecutive conference titles. But the lesser-known part of Wochomurka’s resume was the crossover work he did with Houston’s pass-rushing group, including senior defensive end Turner, who is now a potential first-round pick.

Kyle Chalmers, freestyle, Australia

It’s still in the rumor phase at this point, but NFL insider and reporter Jason La Canfora is reporting* that multiple NFL teams are intrigued by the talent of 2016 Olympic 100 free champ Chalmers. The 22-year-old was a standout Australian rules football player as a teenager before turning his focus solely to the pool. But that may not stop a team from drafting him, just in case the 6-foot-4 freight train would consider a career change.

*he is not

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4 months ago

i sure hope you are wrong about the Lions. That guy will be nothing but a returner in the NFL. Those guys are typically not drafted.

Reply to  Meeeeee
4 months ago

I mean he won a Heisman. That’s gotta count for something

Jiggly Puff
4 months ago


4 months ago

As a huge draft fan these are some of my favorite posts you’ve ever done!

4 months ago

I think 13 of these names will actually go in the Top 15. I’d swap Bateman and the Wisc-Whitewater OL for maybe Caleb Farley and Christian Darrisaw.

If Al Davis were still alive he’d draft Dressel in the 7th round after watching his vertical.

4 months ago

love this (also sure hope you are right about the #3 pick as a 49ers fan)

4 months ago

Gah damn the Uzbekistan one had me dead. Too soon SwimSwam, too soon…

Biedermann won't sleep
Reply to  Swimmer
4 months ago

How to break the supersuited 200 free WR?

Go to a meet in Uzbekistan.

4 months ago

The Quinn Meinerz at home work out videos are fantastic

USA 4x100 Medley Gold Medel 2021
4 months ago

The draft was going so well up to the 11th pick

About Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson swam for nearly twenty years. Then, Jared Anderson stopped swimming and started writing about swimming. He's not sick of swimming yet. Swimming might be sick of him, though. Jared was a YMCA and high school swimmer in northern Minnesota, and spent his college years swimming breaststroke and occasionally pretending …

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