This weekend, four retired Olympians will draft USA Swimming National Teamers onto four SwimSquads, which will do battle over the course of the 2018 TYR Pro Swim Series. At stake: bragging rights, sponsor prizes, and a $10,000 charity donation to the winning team’s choice charity.
In advance, we’re taking a stab at our own mock draft – predicting which athletes will be the hottest commodities for drafters on Sunday night.
Scoring & Criteria
The entire 115-person roster is up for grabs, and USA Swimming’s announcement says some teams will have 27 swimmers and others 28. That means only somewhere between 4 and 6 members of the national team have bowed out of the draft. We don’t know yet who is in and out, so we’re working with all 115 National Teamers and projecting out 29 rounds.
Only 6 swimmers will score at any given meet. The team captain has to designate their 6 prior to each meet. Each of those 6 will represent a different discipline, and can only score points in two events within that discipline:
- Free (50 through 1500)
- Back (50 through 200)
- Breast (50 through 200)
- Fly (50 through 200)
- IM (200 and 400, but not the mixed-order mystery 200)
- Flex (any 2 events)
Placing in the top 8 will yield points in this order:
- 1st: 10
- 2nd: 8
- 3rd: 7
- 4th: 5
- 5th: 4
- 6th: 3
- 7th: 2
- 8th: 1
Our drafting criteria
That discipline format cuts down a bit on the huge appeal of versatile athletes (sorry Melanie Margalis), but makes athletes with a high level of dominance in their specific discipline much more highly-valued (hello Katie Ledecky). In our strategic formula, each team is looking for the most ‘sure thing’ point-scorers in every individual discipline.
A few other factors we’re considering in our draft order:
- Availability: two of the six stops on the tour take place in the heat of NCAA season. That means some key contributors (hey Caeleb Dressel) might only be available for 2/3rd of their team’s competitions. While that doesn’t exactly make Dressel undraftable, it also cuts down a little on his projected value to teams.
- Event depth: if an event discipline has a sure-thing winner (hi again, Katie), that swimmer’s value goes up, but every other swimmer’s value in that discipline probably goes down slightly. But in events that are wide open or extremely deep (like, say, men’s breaststroke), the entire field might be worth drafting a little later, as it’s tougher to project who the top scorers will be.
- In-season ability: Remember, these aren’t necessarily projections of who will be most valuable come Pan Pacs. The Pro Swim Series stretches from January to July, and requires swimmers who can swim well all season long. As a former taper swimmer, applying this rule is difficult, but taper swimmers just aren’t as valuable in this scoring system.
- Dominance vs range: A swimmer with 5 good events is less valuable in this system than a swimmer with 2 great ones, or perhaps even one great one. Each swimmer can only score in two events, so we’re most focused on who can place highly twice within the same discipline.
You can see the full draft pool of U.S. National Teamers (we’re assuming no one has opted out) here.
Remember: before you rush to the comment section, do remember that this is not a ranking of best swimmers or a direct ordering of Pro Swim Series viability. The draft order is influenced heavily by (1) the scoring format and (2) the members already on each team. The most notable effect that has is decreasing the value of all but the top few freestylers, as 40-some national team members are freestylers (compared to ~20 for the other disciplines), but each team can only start a single freestyler for each meet.
Official team captains were named on Monday, along with the draft order:
- Team Krayzelburg: Captain Lenny Krayzelburg
- Team Lezak: Captain Jason Lezak
- Team Coughlin: Captain Natalie Coughlin
- Team Sandeno: Captain Kaitlin Sandeno
We’ll run the draft in a snake format, meaning the pick order reverses each round. While NFL mock draft sites may have taught us that these projections are supposed to be done in a 28-page slideshow, we’re aiming to make our mock draft actually readable, so it can be found in full below.
Round 1, Pick 1: Team Krayzelburg
Chase Kalisz, IM/Flex
The defending series champ, the best IMer in the nation, and as a pro, he’s available and likely to swim all six stops. A no-brainer to go #1.
Round 1, Pick 2: Team Lezak
Katie Ledecky, Free
She’s probably not swimming the first two stops, but if last year is any indication, she’ll score max points from there. Easily the surest bet to win her discipline when she swims it.
Round 1, Pick 3: Team Coughlin
Nathan Adrian, Free
There’s no swimmer steadier on this series than Adrian. He’s really only a threat in two events, but that’s the exact number the scoring format rewards most. And while Caeleb Dressel exists, he likely won’t swim the first two stops and only swam one single PSS meet last year, while Adrian finished third overall in points.
Round 1, Pick 4: Team Sandeno
Leah Smith, Free
There’s an argument to be made that Smith will outscore Ledecky over the length of the tour. Now a pro, Smith could attend all six meets. If she wins the first two meets (with Ledecky gone) and finishes second to Ledecky in the next four, she outscores Ledecky 104-80 in SwimSquad points.
Round 2, Pick 5: Team Sandeno
Ryan Murphy, Back
With the bookend picks, Team Sandeno grabs Murphy, the consensus best backstroker who should be available to swim all six meets (unlike top female backstroker Kathleen Baker).
Round 2, Pick 6: Team Coughlin
Kathleen Baker, Back
Round 2 starts with a run on the top-tier backstrokers. Baker probably won’t swim the early stops, but has become the best female backstroker in America. Her solid IM gives her decent flex potential to boot.
Round 2, Pick 7: Team Lezak
Melanie Margalis, Flex/IM
The best flex prospect around, Margalis is a perfect complement to Team Lezak’s first pick, Ledecky, allowing them a big-point threat in the early weeks when Ledecky is absent.
Round 2, Pick 8: Team Krayzelburg
Caeleb Dressel, Free/Fly/Flex
He’s the best male swimmer in the U.S. right now, so why so low on Dressel? The format makes it hard to designate him. Will he focus on fly? Sprint free? Will he spend his in-season meets going after 200 IMs or 100 breaststrokes? Dressel also didn’t swim much of the PSS last year, and Florida training makes for some notoriously rough in-season times, though Dressel often seems the exception to that rule.
Round 3, Pick 9: Team Krayzelburg
Kevin Cordes, Breast
It’s Krayzelburg’s turn for the bookend picks, and just in time to take the top breaststroker on the board. With his coach Sergio Lopez back in the U.S., Cordes should be available for more stops on the series, and had a stellar summer in the breaststrokes.
Round 3, Pick 10: Team Lezak
Kelsi Worrell, Fly/Flex
With Ledecky and Margalis already on the roster, Team Lezak fills out its fly spot with top-graded Worrell, who could also theoretically fill in for Ledecky as a freestyler the first two meets, depending on her entries.
Round 3, Pick 11: Team Coughlin
Hali Flickinger, Flex
Flickinger is another pure flex type who finished 5th on the series last year and is one of only a few blue-chip prospects left on our board.
Round 3, Pick 12: Team Sandeno
Lilly King, Breast
King could easily go 9th to Team Krayzelburg. It’s a trade-off of dominance (where King is a much safer bet against the other women than Cordes against a deep men’s field) vs availability (with King likely missing the first two meets for NCAA season). King also didn’t put much emphasis on the PSS last year, only swimming one stop.
Round 4, Pick 13: Team Sandeno
Jack Conger, Fly/Flex
With a freestyler (L. Smith), backstroker (Murphy) and breaststroker (King) already in the mix, Team Sandeno goes for the top available flyer, pro Conger, who has some decent flex potential if he enters freestyle races, too.
Round 4, Pick 14: Team Coughlin
Cody Miller, Breast
Breaststrokers are starting to fly off the board, and Miller could turn out to be the best one picked. He’s generally very good in-season and could lock down Team Coughlin’s breaststroke spot every meet.
Round 4, Pick 15: Team Lezak
Madisyn Cox, IM/Flex
In her first year as a pro, Cox comes off the board earlier that Ella Eastin in the hopes that she’ll be available to swim all six meets compared to the four Eastin is likely available for. Ironically enough for a team named after a pure freestyler, Team Lezak now has the best flex potential and lineup versatility in the league, with Margalis, Worrell and Cox.
Round 4, Pick 16: Team Krayzelburg
Matt Grevers, Back
He’s no spring chicken, but Grevers has continued to be extremely effective into his 30s. It’s hard to say if he’ll scale back either his travel schedule or his event range as he gets older, but it’s hard to pass over such a proven commodity in the fourth round, especially for a Krayzelburg team that doesn’t yet have a backstroker.
Round 5, Pick 17: Team Krayzelburg
Simone Manuel, Free
Easily the top talent left on the board, Manuel gets a little bit squeezed out for the freestyle designation when the four teams already have Dressel, Ledecky, Adrian and Smith. But she’ll be an outstanding flex play here, and insurance if Dressel doesn’t swim much of the PSS. Or, Krayzelburg can flex Dressel into a fly or flex spot and use Manuel in free.
Round 5, Pick 18: Team Lezak
Will Licon, Breast
Team Lezak still needs a backstroker and a breaststroker. They fill the latter here with Licon, in his first year as a pro with the potential for major breakout in long course.
Round 5, Pick 19: Team Coughlin
Tim Phillips, Fly
Without a flyer, Team Coughlin goes for Phillips, who should bring great 50 and 100 fly speed but won’t likely contest the 200.
Round 5, Pick 20: Team Sandeno
Ella Eastin, IM/Flex
This is a potentially massive get for Team Sandeno. Even though Eastin didn’t score at any PSS meets last year, she did attend two, and is arguably the best IMer in the nation.
Round 6, Pick 21: Team Sandeno
Mallory Comerford, Free
Team Sandeno has drafted for each of the 5 disciplines (Smith in free, Murphy back, King breast and Conger fly) and now gets to make a straight luxury pick for a flex spot. Comerford drops for the same reasons Manuel does, and is perhaps even more valuable at 21 than Manuel was at 17.
Round 6, Pick 22: Team Coughlin
Jacob Pebley, Back
Team Coughlin could use an IMer, but the top few are already off the board. Instead, they go for a reliable backstroker to fill the gap while Baker is finishing out her college season. Avid fantasy football players might call this one a handcuff?
Round 6, Pick 23: Team Lezak
Olivia Smoliga, Back
Team Lezak has a lot of versatility, but no one they can pencil into a backstroke spot. Smoliga is maybe a better pure scorer in the freestyles, but should fit nicely as a backstroker. In her first year as a pro, Smoliga could attend more of the series than a lot of the other backstrokers, too.
Round 6, Pick 24: Team Krayzelburg
Tom Shields, Fly
Another veteran presence, Shields isn’t exactly slowing down. He’s also a pretty regular participant on the PSS, and helps Team Krayzelburg cover while Dressel is away.
Round 7, Pick 25: Team Krayzelburg
Zane Grothe, Free
Another pick designed to work around Dressel. Grothe is maybe the best scoring bet in men’s distance if he attends most of the series, and could be a very viable free entrant anytime Dressel isn’t entered at a meet.
Round 7, Pick 26: Team Lezak
Arkady Vyatchanin, Back
He didn’t swim this series much last year, but Vyatchanin has spent previous years as one of the most consistent 100/200 back finishers on the tour as a whole. He’s a great secondary backstroke option alongside Smoliga.
Round 7, Pick 27: Team Coughlin
Jay Litherland, IM/Flex
A big name to fall this far. Litherland has his college season to finish first, but was a top 10 finisher on the PSS last year and has outstanding flex potential.
Round 7, Pick 28: Team Sandeno
Nic Fink, Breast
There’s a logjam of male breaststrokers that could make week-to-week decision on who to start agonizing for our captains. Team Sandeno gets Fink to cover the early season while Lilly King is swimming NCAA, and for insurance if she doesn’t travel much in the spring.
Round 8, Pick 29: Team Sandeno
Elizabeth Beisel, IM/Flex
With another bookend pick, Team Sandeno takes a flyer on Beisel, who is often brought up as a potential retiree, but who does seem to still be training. Beisel could be the steal of the draft at #29, or she could wind up never starting. In the 8th round, that’s probably a good high-ceiling bet for Team Sandeno.
Round 8, Pick 30: Team Coughlin
Michael Andrew, Flex
With ideal starting rosters already filled out for all teams, now’s the time to take some flyers on high-ceiling types. It’s hard to know where you’re going to start Andrew week-to-week, but he’s pretty likely to travel a lot over the course of the tour and has had his fair share of successes on the PSS.
Round 8, Pick 31: Team Lezak
Bethany Galat, Breast/IM/Flex
Team Lezak has only Licon for a breaststroke option. Galat gives a great second option, and serves as a solid #2 IMer to Margalis. She might even be better than both, though she only swam two PSS meets last year.
Round 8, Pick 32: Team Krayzelburg
Josh Prenot, Flex/Breast
He was the series runner-up last year. How’d he fall this far? A bit of a rough summer, plus he’s hard to designate. Prenot’s gotta be your flex play if you start him, which limits lineup options a little.
Round 9, Pick 33: Team Krayzelburg
Katie Meili, Flex/Breast
Another high-upside pick late. It’s hard to say how much Meili will be able to travel around her law school studies, but if she does attend, she’s a highly-versatile, highly-talented swimmer who is often great in-season.
Round 9, Pick 34: Team Lezak
Lia Neal, Free
With Ledecky already on the team, it’s clear who Team Lezak would prefer to start each meet. But Neal could be a great option early in the year when Ledecky is swimming NCAA, and could be a solid flex option later on, too.
Round 9, Pick 35: Team Coughlin
Andrew Wilson, Breast
With only Cody Miller already on the roster, Team Coughlin doubles down with the last high-graded breaststroker still on the board.
Round 9, Pick 36: Team Sandeno
Justin Ress, Back/Flex
Team Sandeno has no other backstroker on its roster after Murphy. Consider that depth need filled with Ress, who seems to be on a fast rise lately.
Round 10, Pick 37: Team Sandeno
Amanda Kendall, Fly/Free
A similar pick here as a secondary flyer to back up Conger or a freestyle/flex type.
Round 10, Pick 38: Team Coughlin
Jordan Wilimovsky, Free
Team Coughlin hasn’t added another true freestyler since Adrian in round 1. Wilimovsky is a nice backup option if Adrian takes a meet off.
Round 10, Pick 39: Team Lezak
Regan Smith, Back
She’s still in high school, so travel is probably a bit restricted. But Smith is one of the bright young stars of Team USA, and could be a huge option for a team that is hedging its bets between a few options in backstroke.
Round 10, Pick 40: Team Krayzelburg
Hellen Moffitt, Fly/Back/Free
Team Krayzelburg needed some backstroke depth, too, and Lezak scooped up the Regan Smith pick one spot too early. Krayzelburg opts instead for Moffitt, who’s got a lot of versatility and could fill lineup holes in fly, back or free if a meet happens to be particularly thin.
Round 11, Pick 41: Team Krayzelburg
Gunnar Bentz, IM/Free/Flex
Team Krayzelburg hasn’t bothered with IMers since Kalisz in round 1, but Bentz is too good a talent to leave on the board. The broken collarbone could be a concern, but he should have time to heal from that by at least the spring stops of the tour. And he’s a potentially key flex guy.
Round 11, Pick 42: Team Lezak
Molly Hannis, Breast
Call it best player available. Lezak doesn’t really need another breaststroker, but Hannis is an Olympian who is good at both the 100 and 200 and could shine in meets featuring the 50.
Round 11, Pick 43: Team Coughlin
Pace Clark, Fly
With Flickinger probably best as a flex play, Team Coughlin could use some depth of pure flyers. Clark is a great value at that spot.
Round 11, Pick 44: Team Sandeno
Abbey Weitzeil, Free
Team Sandeno is loaded on freestylers with Leah Smith, Comerford, Ress and Kendall, but the Weitzeil pick has some serious upside, especially if she really starts lighting it up with Cal this NCAA season.
Round 12, Pick 45: Team Sandeno
Hannah Stevens, Back
After a luxury pick in round 11, Team Sandeno gets one more backstroker for depth, grabbing Stevens, who’s the top swimmer left on our board overall.
Round 12, Pick 46: Team Coughlin
Abrahm Devine, IM
The last pick for Team Coughlin goes to shoring up the IM spot with Devine, last summer’s breakout swimmer.
Round 12, Pick 47: Team Lezak
Sarah Gibson, Fly
Team Lezak adds another flyer to the mix behind Worrell.
Round 12, Pick 48: Team Krayzelburg
Ali DeLoof, Back
A great sprint option in backstroke for a team that really only has Matt Grevers.
Round 13, Pick 49: Team Krayzelburg
Brooke Forde, IM/Flex
Round 13, Pick 50: Team Lezak
Lisa Bratton, Back
Round 13, Pick 51: Team Coughlin
Townley Haas, Free
Round 13, Pick 52: Team Sandeno
Ally McHugh, IM/Flex
Round 14, Pick 53: Team Sandeno
Katie McLaughlin, Fly/Free
Round 14, Pick 54: Team Coughlin
Asia Seidt, Back
Round 14, Pick 55: Team Lezak
Blake Pieroni, Free
Round 14, Pick 56: Team Krayzelburg
Jonathan Roberts, Flex
Round 15, Pick 57: Team Krayzelburg
Zach Apple, Free
Round 15, Pick 58: Team Lezak
Clark Smith, Free
Round 15, Pick 59: Team Coughlin
Matt Josa, Fly
Round 15, Pick 60: Team Sandeno
Katie Drabot, Free/Flex
Round 16, Pick 61: Team Sandeno
Andee Cottrell, Breast
Round 16, Pick 62: Team Coughlin
Hannah Moore, Free
Round 16, Pick 63: Team Lezak
True Sweetser, Free
Round 16, Pick 64: Team Krayzelburg
Robert Finke, Free
Round 17, Pick 65: Team Krayzelburg
Dakota Luther, Fly/Flex
Round 17, Pick 66: Team Lezak
Cassidy Bayer, Fly/Flex
Round 17, Pick 67: Team Coughlin
Emily Escobedo, Breast
Round 17, Pick 68: Team Sandeno
Ryan Held, Free
Round 18, Pick 69: Team Sandeno
Grant Shoults, Free
Round 18, Pick 70: Team Coughlin
Becca Mann, Free/Flex
Round 18, Pick 71: Team Lezak
Elise Haan, Back
Round 18, Pick 72: Team Krayzelburg
Taylor Dale, Back
Round 19, Pick 73: Team Krayzelburg
Miranda Tucker, Breast
Round 19, Pick 74: Team Lezak
Conor Dwyer, Free/Flex
Round 19, Pick 75: Team Coughlin
Justin Lynch, Fly
Round 19, Pick 76: Team Sandeno
Austin Katz, Back
Round 20, Pick 77: Team Sandeno
Breeja Larson, Breast
Round 20, Pick 78: Team Coughlin
Kayla Brumbaum, Breast
Round 20, Pick 79: Team Lezak
Sean Grieshop, IM/Flex
Round 20, Pick 80: Team Krayzelburg
PJ Ransford, Free
Round 21, Pick 81: Team Krayzelburg
Sean Lehane, Back
Round 21, Pick 82: Team Lezak
Alex Walsh, IM/Flex
Round 21, Pick 83: Team Coughlin
Andrew Abruzzo, Free/Flex
Round 21, Pick 84: Team Sandeno
Sierra Schmidt, Free
Round 22, Pick 85: Team Sandeno
Vanessa Pearl, Breast/IM/Flex
Round 22, Pick 86: Team Coughlin
Michael Chadwick, Free
Round 22, Pick 87: Team Lezak
Ian Finnerty, Breast
Round 22, Pick 88: Team Krayzelburg
Bridgette Alexander, Back
Round 23, Pick 89: Team Krayzelburg
Mitch D’Arrigo, Free
Round 23, Pick 90: Team Lezak
Cullen Jones, Free
Round 23, Pick 91: Team Coughlin
Kylie Stewart, Back/Flex
Round 23, Pick 92: Team Sandeno
Zach Harting, Fly
Round 24, Pick 93: Team Sandeno
Erica Sullivan, Free
Round 24, Pick 94: Team Coughlin
Meaghan Raab, IM/Flex
Round 24, Pick 95: Team Lezak
Vanessa Krause, Fly
Round 24, Pick 96: Team Krayzelburg
Justin Wright, Fly
Round 25, Pick 97: Team Krayzelburg
Jonathan Tybur, Breast
Round 25, Pick 98: Team Lezak
Anthony Ervin, Free
Round 25, Pick 99: Team Coughlin
Kevin Litherland, Free
Round 25, Pick 100: Team Sandeno
Charlie Swanson, IM
Round 26, Pick 101: Team Sandeno
Ashley Twichell, Free
Round 26, Pick 102: Team Coughlin
Cierra Runge, Free
Round 26, Pick 103: Team Lezak
Kaersten Meitz, Free
Round 26, Pick 104: Team Krayzelburg
Haley Anderson, Free
Round 27, Pick 105: Team Krayzelburg
Logan Houck, Free
Round 27, Pick 106: Team Lezak
Joy Field, Free
Round 27, Pick 107: Team Coughlin
Michael Brinegar, Free/Flex
Round 27, Pick 108: Team Sandeno
Katy Campbell, Free
Round 28, Pick 109: Team Sandeno
Isabella Rongione, Free
Round 28, Pick 110: Team Coughlin
Andrew Gemmell, Free
Round 28, Pick 111: Team Lezak
David Heron, Free
Round 28, Pick 112: Team Krayzelburg
Simon Lamar, Free
Round 29, Pick 113: Team Krayzelburg
Brendan Casey, Free
Round 29, Pick 114: Team Lezak
Cathryn Salladin, Free
Round 29, Pick 115: Team Sandeno
Chip Peterson, Free
|Pick #||Team Krayzelburg||Team Lezak||Team Coughlin||Team Sandeno||Pick #|
|1||Chase Kalisz||Katie Ledecky||Nathan Adrian||Leah Smith||4|
|8||Caeleb Dressel||Melanie Margalis||Kathleen Baker||Ryan Murphy||5|
|9||Kevin Cordes||Kelsi Worrell||Hali Flickinger||Lilly King||12|
|16||Matt Grevers||Madisyn Cox||Cody Miller||Jack Conger||13|
|17||Simone Manuel||Will Licon||Tim Phillips||Ella Eastin||20|
|24||Tom Shields||Olivia Smoliga||Jacob Pebley||Mallory Comerford||21|
|25||Zane Grothe||Arkady Vyatchanin||Jay Litherland||Nic Fink||28|
|32||Josh Prenot||Bethany Galat||Michael Andrew||Elizabeth Beisel||29|
|33||Katie Meili||Lia Neal||Andrew Wilson||Justin Ress||36|
|40||Hellen Moffitt||Regan Smith||Jordan Wilimovsky||Amanda Kendall||37|
|41||Gunnar Bentz||Molly Hannis||Pace Clark||Abbey Weitzeil||44|
|48||Ali DeLoof||Sarah Gibson||Abrahm DeVine||Hannah Stevens||45|
|49||Brooke Forde||Lisa Bratton||Townley Haas||Ally McHugh||52|
|56||Jonathan Roberts||Blake Pieroni||Asia Seidt||Katie McLaughlin||53|
|57||Zach Apple||Clark Smith||Matt Josa||Katie Drabot||60|
|64||Robert Finke||True Sweetser||Hannah Moore||Andrea Cottrell||61|
|65||Dakota Luther||Cassidy Bayer||Emily Escobedo||Ryan Held||68|
|72||Taylor Dale||Elise Haan||Becca Mann||Grant Shoults||69|
|73||Miranda Tucker||Conor Dwyer||Justin Lynch||Austin Katz||76|
|80||PJ Ransford||Sean Grieshop||Kayla Brumbaum||Breeja Larson||77|
|81||Sean Lehane||Alexandra Walsh||Andrew Abruzzo||Sierra Schmidt||84|
|88||Bridgette Alexander||Ian Finnerty||Michael Chadwick||Vanessa Pearl||85|
|89||Mitch D’Arrigo||Cullen Jones||Kylie Stewart||Zach Harting||92|
|96||Justin Wright||Vanessa Krause||Meaghan Raab||Erica Sullivan||93|
|97||Jonathan Tybur||Anthony Ervin||Kevin Litherland||Charlie Swanson||100|
|104||Haley Anderson||Kaersten Meitz||Cierra Runge||Ashley Twichell||101|
|105||Logan Houck||Joy Field||Michael Brinegar||Katy Campbell||108|
|112||Simon Lamar||David Heron||Andrew Gemmell||Isabella Rongione||109|
|113||Brendan Casey||Cathryn Salladin||Chip Peterson||—||115|