Numerous sixth round picks never make the NFL. Three sixth round picks from the 2020 draft have never played in an NFL game.
Seahawks receiver Freddie Swain is beating the odds as the final pick of that sixth round two springs ago, however. In fact, of those 35 picks in the sixth round last year, no player has appeared in more games (21) than the former Florida Gator pass-catcher.
When Swain was selected, he was never expected to be a top-line receiver, especially in Seattle where Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf were already All-Pro caliber players on the outside. But every offense needs a solid receiver corps that is four or five players deep.
Russell Wilson has often used the word "trust" when talking about Swain in Seattle's offense. That trust has played out on the field. He appeared in all 16 games last season, playing in 33 percent of the offensive snaps in 2020, while posting 159 yards receiving on 13 catches with two touchdowns.
This season, in part due to Dee Eskridge's prolonged absence from a concussion, Swain's snap share is up to 62 percent of the offensive snaps. He already has 10 catches for 134 yards, nearly equaling his total from last season in 11 less games. Barring injury, Swain is almost guaranteed to shatter his rookie season totals.
Not only does Wilson trust him, but it seems Shane Waldron does as well. In the new scheme under Waldron, Swain has been more heavily involved, already tying his two-touchdown total from last season. Used in the jet sweep game, he also logged his first three NFL carries this year, for a total of 21 yards.
Although it will be Geno Smith throwing to Swain for the next few weeks instead of Wilson, the trust in Swain turned into a solid passer rating. In passes targeted his direction, Seahawks quarterbacks have a 134.4 passer rating, which is second on the team to Metcalf among players with at least 10 targets and 24th in all the NFL. Yes, throws to Swain have a better passer rating this season than even Tyler Lockett.
Waldron and the Seahawks' offense have struggled to involve the tight ends effectively, with Will Dissly and Gerald Everett combining for less than 200 total yards thus far. With that unideal development and Eskridge still weeks away from returning, Swain has become an important contributor as the third-most effective pass catcher on the offense.
In the uncertain days ahead without Wilson at quarterback, the Seahawks should look to trust Swain even more. In 36 career targets thus far, he has yet to drop a pass. For reference, both Lockett and Metcalf had eight drops last year alone. Smith will need reliable targets as he navigates Seattle through this turbulent stretch.
Based on his performance in his first 21 career games, it looks like Swain is up to the task as the third-best option behind Lockett and Metcalf.