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 Reese, plus the flowing hair of Cody Miller. In 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