One thing that has been proven at the MLS SuperDraft over the years is that drafting in this league is far from a science. While some years there are a select few players that seem to be can't miss talent coming out of the draft even those elite talents have often proven to be busts.
The fact of the matter is that every MLS draft is full of early picks who never go anywhere in their career and late round picks who go on to have successful careers. That means that for a team willing to do their homework it is possible to come away from the draft table with value even if they are not picking at the very top of the order.
This years draft will be similar to recent drafts in that the top of the draft board is going to be fairly easy to figure out but after the first couple of picks it will really come down to each teams preferences. For teams picking outside of the top 3 they really could go a lot of different ways with many of the early mock drafts differing widely on the remainder of the first round.
For Toronto FC the question will be if they can come away with a player who can make a contribution to the team at the 9th overall selection. Considering their track record at the draft, which is actually solid, there is some reason to hope that they will get a solid player with that selection.
When TFC have made similar selections in the past they have taken the likes of Andrew Boyens (10th overall in 2007), Julius James (9th overall in 2008), Stefan Frei (13th overall in 2009), Aaron Maund (12th overall in 2012), Nick Hagglund (10th overall in 2014), Clement Simonin (9th overall in 2015), and Skylar Thomas (11th overall in 2015). It is not the most impressive group of picks but there are a number of players there who have already gone on to have solid MLS careers. James and Boyens are both out of the league now but they did manage to make over 50 appearances in their careers, Frei has developed in to one of the top keepers in the league, and the trio of young defenders all still have the potential to develop in to solid players moving forward.
So the club have done well with similar picks in the past even if they have gone a bit off the board to grab players in recent drafts. It is likely that they will do the same this year with the club once again suggesting that they will look to select the player that best fits their needs rather than the player who might be considered the best talent left on the board.
It would not come as a surprise to see TFC once again repeating the Simonin selection by going with a player that was not even on the draft board for most experts. Given the nature of 9th overall selections and the fact that they are a bit of a crap shoot it makes sense that the club should go after a player who fits a need that they have within their organization.
Fans will be hoping that the team somehow lands someone a gem but the best case scenario may be that they grab a member of the Generation adidas class just to ensure that their selection does not come along with a cap hit given that the club does not have a lot of room left to work within their salary budget despite having a few holes left to fill in their roster.
If TFC are drafting based on their greatest positions of need it would come as no surprise to see them select a wide player. They could still use some depth at right back and on either wing which are positions that are lacking any elite talent (unless Josh Yaro is a RB in MLS) but have plenty of interesting options who could develop in to solid MLS talents.
A player like Tim Kubel out of Louisville, Jordan McCrary from North Carolina, or Keegan Rosenberry of Georgetown could be a good option to act as depth at right back should the club not feel that Mark Bloom is good enough coverage behind Steven Beitashour. All three players have the quality to go in the first round of this draft and are names to keep an eye on at the combine for TFC fans. Kubel would be the most appealing of the bunch if he signs a GA deal and is available on draft day as he is a top 10 talent and would come without any cap hit.
If the club is looking for a winger that is projected to go in the first round of the draft the options are a bit more limited. The one name that does stand out is Michael Gamble out of Wake Forest. He is a first round talent that has the ability to play as a wide midfielder or as a forward. He has the tools to cause defenders troubles and would bring something different than what any of TFC's current midfielders possess.
In the end, the odds are that whatever player TFC takes early in this draft they will wind up spending the year with Toronto FC II similar to what last year's selections did. Given that Toronto's second pick of the draft is not until 56th overall it would be a pleasant surprise to see them get more than one player that is good enough to play a role in USL next season let alone MLS.
The good news is that the lack of top end picks for the club in this draft may just hep clear the way for some of the home grown talent to get more of a shot.