Earlier today MLS released the initial list of 52 players who have been invited to take part in the pre-draft combine. That announcement means that draft season is once again upon us. All of the players invited to the combine were the top rated seniors in division I of the NCAA so many players will be hoping to impress just to end up being taken in the draft. With the draft going down to only 2 rounds this year that means only 38 players will end up being selected but the good news for the other players is that there are still 76 picks in the supplemental draft after that!
From a Toronto FC perspective, this years draft gives the team a good chance to stock up on some talent as the team picks at number 4 and then again at number 12. That 12th pick is the only piece left of the deal that saw TFC send Dwayne De Rosario to the New York Red Bulls so if the team wants to avoid that deal being remembered as simply De Ro being turned into Andy Iro they will, one way or another, need to make that pick count.
I am not a draft expert by any means but I do know what sort of needs Toronto FC has and I did watch a couple of NCAA games this year. There are some decent talents to be had at the top end of the draft even if I don't think there is anyone who is primed to immediately be a top class player in the MLS. The draft should provide Toronto with the chance to at the very least pick up two solid players who can contribute next year.
So here are a few names to keep an eye on! (in no real order)
Andrew Wenger: The Duke player is an underclassman but is almost certain to leave school early and sign a Generation Adidas contract. Chances are though that Wenger will be taken in the top 3 of this draft and not even be around when TFC picks for the first time. He was a great scorer this year but by trade is actually more of a defensive player. Any team that selects him will first have to figure out where they want to use him. At the MLS level he will probably end up being a defensive midfielder.
Nick DeLeon: It depends on who you ask about this attacking player from Louisville but he often ends up being ranked anywhere from top 3 to top 10. He is a creative force in the midfield and can control games with his passing. He is also capable of chipping in a few goals now and then. He is probably the most mature player available in the midfield early in this draft.
Darren Mattocks: The Akron Zip is another underclassman who seems certain to be leaving school early to end up going pro. He is a talented forward with a real eye for goal. His physical style of play and size should translate well to the MLS level. If he does stay in the US don't expect him to slip down past the top 3 in this draft.
Matthew Hedges: This is one player that I have my eye on for TFC. Many scouts say that he is the most MLS ready center back on the draft board this year and the North Carolina standout would be a good fit in Toronto. The fact that he is 6 foot 4 is a real plus for him in my books and he has the kind of physical abilities that are lacking in a player like Andy Iro. His combination of size and skill make him a good choice for Toronto. Could see them going off the board for him at number 4 or even trading down and still getting him.
Austin Berry: The Lousiville Cardinal defender might be worth a look for Toronto with their second pick of the draft. He is a very intelligent player, was a leader for his team, and very good in the air. One factor against him is that he would need a lot more time to adjust to the MLS level than a player like Hedges. His big knock in my books is his pace and he will probably be more of a second round guy barring a very impressive combine.
Eric Schoenle: Another defender that TFC might want to take at least a look at even if he is probably going to go later in the draft than either of the Red's top picks. The West Virginia center back has the height and aerial ability that you look for in an MLS defender but the knocks on him come from people questioning if he can handle the physicality of MLS. Some team will take a shot on him because of his ability with the ball at his feet and overall intelligence. Only worth TFC looking at if he gets on a Gen Adidas contract (unlikely).
Kelyn Rowe: In my eyes, and in the eyes of many who know more than me, this UCLA midfielder is the best playmaker in the draft. Like many other players in this draft he is questioned for his ability to handle the physicality involved with playing in an MLS midfield but if you look past that you will find a player with good speed, passing, and great vision. He would be worth a look for Toronto if still on the board at number 4.
Aaron Maund: He would be a real stretch for TFC to land unless they trade down since this Notre Dame center back is probably going to be lucky to sneak in to the first round of the draft. He brings a good package of size and technical ability as well as the experience of being a under-20 US international.
Enzo Martinez: If you can't get Rowe and you are looking for a talented and creative passer in the midfield then look no further than this North Carolina junior. He should be up for a Generation Adidas contract if his other issues revolving around his immigration status can be resolved. If that is worked out he might be someone Toronto looks at in the top 5 if they want to go somewhere other then a defender.
Casey Townsend: Toronto are not likely to be looking at a forward and if they are I have already mentioned some better options but this Maryland senior is capable of filling the back of the net. He scored 17 times for his team this past year which is up there with the best hauls in division 1 and has even been drawing comparisons to Taylor Twellman who was also a Maryland standout with a knack for scoring goals.
There really are a whole lot of different players that could be a good option for Toronto FC at their 12th pick and it will depend on who impresses at the combine and what the club wants to do with that pick. The 4th overall pick is a bit more straight forward and I fully expect the club to look at one of the better center backs but a lot depends on who ends up getting themselves a Generation Adidas contract.