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Draft Pick Breakdown: The short-term and long-term outlook for Freddie Swain

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COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 21 Tennessee at Florida Photo by Mary Holt/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

With what was set to be their final selection in the 2020 NFL Draft, the Seahawks finally looked toward a position most expected them to address by the end of the draft’s second day. Even when they did, in typical Seattle fashion, it was for a skill set the Seahawks didn’t exactly need in the immediate future. With their sixth-round pick, No. 214 overall, Seattle added former Florida Gator wideout Freddie Swain.

What might they be getting in the pass catcher?

Short-term role

Projecting a draft pick like Swain’s role in the short-term is difficult because the reality is he first needs to make the roster. In a crowded wide receiver corps, Swain will be in a battle with last year’s seventh-round pick, John Ursua, and mid-season practice squad addition Penny Hart to round out the position group behind Tyler Lockett, DK Metcalf, Phillip Dorsett and, likely, David Moore.

Similar to Ursua and Hart, Swain best projects inside in the NFL and that would be his path to the roster—as Lockett’s primary backup. In the short-term, he would find a role on special teams, as well, and potentially as a returner.

Long-term role

As we’ve seen before for the Seahawks, should Swain fail to make the 53-man roster out of training camp, they would likely attempt to get him onto the practice squad. Whether it’s on the 53 or the practice squad, he can continue to refine his route running to get to a place of reliability out of the slot. Swain’s hands and ability to create after the catch are already solid, but the technical side of his game needs to continue to improve. In the long-term, if he is able to maintain a solid line of development, he could crack the 53 and in effect replace Dorsett a year from now.

Floor

Seattle’s drafts, since Schneider and Carroll took over, are littered with wide receivers who failed to make any kind of impact: Kris Durham, Chris Harper, Kevin Norwood, Kenny Lawler, Amara Darboh, Gary Jennings and John Ursua. There is every chance Swain simply is cut at the end of camp and doesn’t land on the Seahawks’ practice squad, or is picked up by another team. The reality of late draft picks, such as Swain, is that the floor is out of the NFL in a hurry.

Ceiling

With good speed and tackle-breaking ability, Swain could become a legitimate run after the catch threat with time. While he projects to remain in the slot, he could also be used as a gadget player, taking screen passes and handoffs in order to get him into space. If Swain can play regularly and become a threat to break off chunks of yardage anytime he touches the ball, his selection will have been a hit.

Athletic fit

This is the area that gives the most pause regarding Swain’s ceiling as a full-time slot receiver. The three cone and short shuttle drills are the best indicators of agility and change of direction ability, two traits crucial to separating underneath and over the middle of the field. In that regard, Swain compares poorly to Doug Baldwin, Lockett and Ursua.

Slot WRs

Player Three Cone Percentile Short Shuttle Percentile
Player Three Cone Percentile Short Shuttle Percentile
Doug Baldwin 96th 40th
Tyler Lockett 61st 86th
John Ursua 78th 63rd
Freddie Swain 34th 40th

Not only is Swain a significantly less polished route runner than the slot trio that predated him, but he is also not nearly as athletic in the areas important to the position. That isn’t to say he won’t be able to mitigate his lack of athleticism—as mentioned, he’s tough after the catch and does possess solid explosiveness. As far as slot receivers in Seattle are concerned, however, he’s an outlier.

For as many misses as the Seahawks have had at receiver, they have had a number of hits—across the draft. In Swain, Seattle is betting on production, physicality, and toughness; after the success they’ve had betting on similar traits previously, it’s hard to disagree with that process.