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Prospecting the Draft - Walker Zimmerman

The first in our series of scouting reports on players that Toronto FC would be wise to consider drafting at #1 is Walker Zimmerman. Should the defender decide to leave Furman early and sign a Generation Adidas contract he will be near the top of most draft boards.

Walker Zimmerman in action for Furman during the 2012 season
Walker Zimmerman in action for Furman during the 2012 season
Furman Paladin Athletics

With the NCAA soccer tournament now well underway it is getting to be the time of year where experts and so-called experts all over the internet begin to put together their own mock drafts. When looking for a reliable source for this kind of thing the best place to start is Top Drawer Soccer and they recently released their Mock Draft version 1.0 for the 2013 MLS SuperDraft.

In their initial mock draft they have gone with Walker Zimmerman as the number one selection by Toronto FC. It is a pick that would make good sense as TFC has always been in need of quality defensive help and Zimmerman is a central defender who could make a contribution right away in 2013.

The big question with Zimmerman is whether or not he will leave Furman and sign a Generation Adidas contract this winter. Having just completed his Sophomore season for the Paladins he still has the option of returning to NCAA in 2013 but based on his performances this season for his school and with the US U20 program he has shown that if he wants to, he is ready to make the jump to the next level.

The biggest pluses about Zimmerman are plain to see when you look at the 6 foot 3, 185 pound defender. He has the kind of size and strength that any coach would like in a central defender, and consistently shows that he knows how to use that to his advantage in games. At the attacking end of the field he has the ability to use his size to get involved on set pieces and cause opposition defenders a lot of problems. In his two seasons at Furman he has collected 10 goals and 4 assists which are impressive numbers for any defender.

It was Zimmerman's rapid growth that actually threatened to derail his development. As a 15 year old he grew nearly 4 inches in two months and he began to suffer from various pain that is caused by such rapid growth. The most severe was when he was diagnosed with Sever's Disease when the bones in his feet expanded faster than the muscles and tendons could handle. He would come through his series of injuries but cost him nearly a year of development. TDS has a recap of the journey that he went through to get healthy as a 15 year old that is worth a read to understand just how motivated he is as a person.

Another plus is that he comes from one of the best NCAA programs that you have probably never heard of, led by head coach Doug Allison who has just completed his 18th season with the school. During his time the Paladins have won 9 Southern Conference regular season titles and 6 conference tournament titles. His time at the school has also seen him coach talents such as Ricardo Clark, Clint Dempsey, and Shea Salinas. With that kind of talent coming from the programme it would be no surprise to see Zimmerman be the next player to find success at the MLS level. If Zimmerman were to go first overall in the draft it would be the first time that a player from Furman was selected number one as Clark was the #2 pick and Dempsey the #8 in their respective draft years.

Zimmerman comes from a family with a long line of athletic success in his gene pool. Having both his grandfather and great-greatfather play D1 football and serve as captains at Auburn, an Aunt in the Tennis Hall of Fame, and a brother who also played football at Auburn shows that sports were a big part of his family.

Walker is a product of the Olympic Development program that first brought him into the US national program at the U14 level. He has been a regular in that program since then being included in U15, U16, U18 and now U20 programs. He was the captain of the U18 program for the 2011 Milk Cup as well as for their trip to Portugal in 2010. There is no doubt that Zimmerman is the kind of natural leader that you want in a central defender.

The knocks on Zimmerman are limited as he has shown a very mature game for a player who is just 19 years old. That said, his age remains one of the bigger draw backs to selecting him first overall. He is still several years away from reaching his full potential even if he could make a contribution for an MLS team right away. Toronto is not desperate for long term help in their defence but rather are in need of a short term fix.

Zimmerman has the size and strength to make up for the areas of his game that are still lacking in polish. In the footage I have been able to see of him in action it is clear that he could improve his ability with the ball at his feet. He is an adequate ball handler but can make the occasional mistake or dribble himself into trouble a bit more often then you would like. His marking could also stand to be improved as in some cases it looks like he is overly reliant on his athleticism to make up for poor position.

The other knock is that his Furman side failed to reach the postseason this year which will limit his exposure to scouts. I doubt that it would mean him missing out on a Generation Adidas offer as his resume is still impressive and many scouts would have been impressed by his work with the various national team programs he has been a part of.

In the end, all the knocks on Zimmerman come from the fact that he is not yet the finished product but they all have to be viewed with the fact that he is still just 19 years old and would have time to add that polish to his game as he develops. He is still a raw player but his physical style and natural athletic ability make him a fairly safe choice early in the draft.

For Toronto the chance to bring in another potentially solid defender is not really something they can afford to pass up on. If Zimmerman does end up signing to a GA contract then will likely remain near the top of a lot of mock drafts in the coming months. In the meantime, I just hope that he has made his way onto Paul Mariner's radar as a player to consider. I almost get excited thinking about a pairing of Doneil Henry and Walker Zimmerman anchoring the back line for Toronto for many years to come. Just need to convince Zimmerman it is time to lose that headband he loves to wear.