Earlier today the 19 different MLS blogs on SB Nation got together to conduct our annual mock draft (full draft results here). I was charged with the responsibility of drafting for Toronto FC in this draft and it was not the easiest of tasks.
My main goal was to try and be accurate to what Winter and Mariner have been saying in the lead up to the draft. The main things that they have said are that Toronto FC does not plan on trading either first round pick, we were not allowed to make trades anyhow so that was easy to stick to. They also said that they would like to get Generation Adidas talent if at all possible. That would make sense because those 9 players come without a cap hit which would be a real plus for a team with very little cap space. Mariner also said that the team will not necessarily just be drafting the best player on the board but will look to address needs for the club.
So with all that in mind I went into the draft with my eye on the 9 players who were signed as part of the Generation Adidas draft, a few guys who had stood out in the Combine the past two days, and then a couple of backup options that fit Toronto's biggest need.
Looking at the teams biggest needs I felt that the obvious one was for another CB as even with Adrian Cann and Dicoy Williams set to return at some point this season there is still room to improve in that area. A defender capable of being a long term MLS starter would be a very valuable addition for TFC with Andy Iro and Ty Harden clearly not being the solution there. The other need that I saw has more to do with Winter's desire to improve depth at every position. The position that stood out for me in that regard was actually attacking mid. At the moment the only real option that the club has is Eric Avila and even though he has done well for the club I do not consider him to be an untouchable starter. Even with Peri Marosevic and Ryan Johnson capable of playing in that central role, they are better off staying out wide, Toronto has room to improve that spot. Add in the fact that this draft is loaded with CAM talent and it just makes sense for TFC to take one early.So now that you understand what I was thinking going in to the draft I will take a look at the picks that I ended up making.
4th overall: Kelyn Rowe - Attacking Midfielder, UCLA
12th overall: Austin Berry - Defender, Louisville
I was able to address both of the needs that I highlighted with these two picks and the only thing that I am unhappy with was having to take a player at 12th that was not signed to a Generation Adidas contract. That said though, the only defenders that signed GA deals are Tyler Polak and Andrew Jean-Baptiste who were both off the board before the 12th pick. The first pick was simple for me as I rate Rowe as the third best player available in this draft so passing up on him for a non-GA player like DeLeon or Silva just did not make sense to me. So without further ado, my breakdowns of each player:
Kelyn Rowe: The UCLA midfielder has all the talent that you look for in someone coming out of College. In his two days at the MLS combine this year, he was one of the more impressive players as he showed the ability to pick out a pass and really orchestrate the offense. He showed that same skill set during his time at UCLA where he went to the NCAA national semi-finals and was named Pac-12 player of the year. His work this past year also earned him a call up to the USNT Olympic camp this coming week. The fact that Rowe is capable of spreading passes around the field as well as making runs at defenders make him a potential difference maker for a team like Toronto. The only knock that most scouts have on Rowe is to question if he can make the transition to the MLS level because of his size. That does not really bother me considering that his UCLA team trained and trialled against the LA Galaxy and Chivas USA during his time there which showed him what he would be up against. At only 20 years of age Rowe still have time to fill out and his younger age gives him a better chance to adapt to Winter's style of play. His GA contract made him just too good to pass up on at number 4.
Austin Berry: The Louisville defender is a 6-2 senior and a former all-American. He had a bit of a down year in his senior year which has hurt his stock heading in to the draft but he remains one of the best CB talents on the board. The other two main options that people have in the first round are Matt Hedges and Andrew Jean-Baptiste. Hedges has struggled mightily at the Combine this weekend which is certainly not going to help his stock despite his strong NCAA season. Jean-Baptiste is probably the least talented of the three but the fact that he has signed a GA contract boosts his stock to being a viable first round option. In this mock draft though, the other two were off the board by number 12 so getting a GA talent and a defender was not an option so Berry represented the best defender left. Berry has decent size at 6-2 but could stand to fill out a bit more from his current weight (listed at 180). He is fairly mobile for a player his height, would never partner him with Iro though, and is very strong in the air. His marking could stand to improve but he is one of a select few defenders in this draft capable of contributing in the MLS right away. He could even help with TFC's set piece woes from last season as he is often described as "an animal in the air" capable of winning headers in his own box and heading in his fair share of goals at the other end!
In the end I am very happy with who I got in the mock draft and if Toronto FC were to get the same or similar players come the SuperDraft I think they would be very satisfied with their efforts. What do you think though? Better options out there or is this the way to go for the Reds?