Each year of maturity in the MLS Academy system means that the quality depth of the Super Draft player pool dwindles. But there are still viable players who can add to a team's overall roster and occasionally even yield immediate returns. DeShorn Brown and Dillon Powers both dropped below the top few spots in last year's draft, yet they became regular starters for the Rapids. Last year the Sounders picked up two strong young players in Eriq Zavaleta and Dylan Remick. The potential exists for them to gain another valuable player or two this year as well.
The Sounders currently hold the 13th spot, a pick that might yield a potential depth player, but isn't likely to yield a player who will challenge for starting minutes. Starting caliber players are more likely to be found in the top 5-6 picks of the draft. The Sounders have the necessary Allocation Money to move up into those slots if they think they can get the right player. D.C. United holds the top pick and if they were going to part with it, it would have been a component of the EJ trade. So that pick is probably not in play. But both Philadelphia and Vancouver pick twice before the Sounders. Philly holds the 2nd & 6th picks. Vancouver has the 3rd and 7th choices.
For the right price, any of these picks could be available. This is one of the many virtues of holding a yacht load of AM. The Sounders biggest needs at the moment are for help on the Left Side of the field and in the creative midfield. With that in mind, I went looking to see who is or might be available that would fit those needs. For this first look, I've divided the prospects into 3 categories: College Forwards who Project into MLS as Potential Midfielders, Left Sided Players and Creative Center Mids.
I Play Forward Now, But in MLS Who Knows?
Patrick Mullins, SR, University of Maryland
Mullins is the reigning Mac Herman trophy winner and a strong candidate to repeat this year. He led the Terrapins to the College Cup finals this year and has done everything he could possibly do as a college player except win the College Cup. He's creative, intelligent, works both ways, moves well off the ball and is a leader. He created the own goal that won this year's ACC tournament championship. He scored a brace to put the Terps into the College Cup final and scored again in the final, even though Maryland ultimately lost the game. He consistently scores when it matters and he does it in a number of ways. He's also left footed. He is currently ranked as the number 1 college player by Top Drawer and is in the top 5 of most early Mock drafts. He could have easily been a Generation Adidas player either of the last two years if he wanted. He is liable to be the first or second Senior to come off the board and depending on this year's crop of GA candidates, may come off the board at the top of the day or he might fall a few slots.
The knock against Mullins is that he really isn't a prototypical Forward at the professional level. He is also very left footed. But these knocks may also make him an intriguing prospect for the Sounders. He could slot into the left side of MF as a fairly low cost option for the team to fill that hole. He could also serve as an understudy to Deuce. There is a good chance that DC takes him with the Number 1 pick, but if they don't, the Sounders could certainly do a lot worse.
Steve Neumann, SR, Georgetown
Neumann is another East Coast standout. His big moment in the college game came in last year's College Cup when the Hoyas knocked off Maryland in the Semis and lost a hard fought final to Eriq Z's Hoosiers. Neumann was one of the best players in the tournament. He had a good Senior year, but Georgetown wasn't able to match last year's success and they bowed out of the tournament in an earlier round. Physically he's a Mullins light. He has many of the same attributes as Mullins and the same knocks. Both the Soccer by Ives and MLS V1 Mock Drafts have him falling to Seattle at their natural 13th spot on draft day. A wild card with Neumann is that he is from Philly. The Union may be eyeing him as a potential pick and if they can trade down and still get him, it might make them willing to part with one of their picks.
Mamadou Diouf, SR, UConn
Diouf is the closest of these candidates to being a true Forward. He's an International player from Senegal and has struggled in his Senior year due to injury. But prior to this year he lit up the college game. He's a bit bigger and more athletic than either Mullins or Neumann. His draft stock will likely rise or fall on how he performs at the upcoming MLS Combine. He could end up being this year's DeShorn Brown type player. Might be a nice depth piece for the Sounders if they like what they see. Not someone the Sounders will need to trade up to get, but could be a name we hear.
Sinister Players are the Only One's in their Right Mind
Robbie Derschang, SR, Akron
Derschang is an interesting prospect. He spent his first two years at SMU and then finished his college career at Akron. He's played Forward, LB and LM in the college game and done well at all of them. He can score and assist. He's left footed and might fit well into Seattle's plans. Not the kind of player the team will need to trade up to get, but could be a good value pick with one of their 2nd round choices if he is still on the board.
Ben Sweat, SR, South Florida
Sweat is the consensus top LB in this year's draft class. After last year's draft that was loaded with LB prospects, this year sees a return to the more normal situation of shallow pickings at the position. Sweat is considered an aggressive LB with good ability to range forward. But with the Sounders drafting Dylan Remick last year and thinking that they got the cream of last year's deep options at the position, I don't know that Sweat fits into the Sounders' plans. Still it is a position of need and if he's the best player available, I could see the Sounders taking him if they think he is the best player left on the board.
Nikita Kotlov, SR, Indiana
Kotlov is another member of the 2012 Championship squad at Indiana. He's a solid left wing. He's not particularly flashy, but he's one of the top wingers in a shallow pool. I'd describe his play as stalwart with a bit of guile rather than speedy. Think Caskey more than Zakuani, but with more of a tendency to score.
What is this Concept "Creativity in the Middle"?
Leo Stolz, JR, UCLA
Stolz is one of the top rated GA targets for this year. The German International directs the attack for the Bruins and is a consensus top 5 pick if he forgoes his Senior year in favor of MLS. He is one of this year's Mac Hermann Trophy finalists. MLS has him going 2nd if he comes out. But that is a big ‘if'. He'd be the kind of player the Sounders might spend some AM to be able to take and we all know how Sigi likes UCLA players.
Victor Munoz, SR, UCLA
Munoz is another creative International player in the UCLA squad. The diminutive Spanish player hails from Madrid and has as many assists as Stolz this year. He's not as big as Stolz or as highly rated, but he could be an interesting pick and with his International status is liable to fall down the draft board a bit. And did I mention that Sigi likes UCLA grads?
Pedro Ribeiro, SR, Coastal Carolina
Ribeiro is the player I am most intrigued by in this year's draft class. He's a 6'3", 208 lbs Brazilian CM who has scored 31 goals and had 26 assists in his career with the Chanticleers. He was a Mac Hermann semi-finalist this year and has played in 4 consecutive NCAA tournaments. If there was ever a sleeper prospect that appears to have an intriguing set of skills for the modern game, Ribeiro could be it. He's a player that could go a long way in securing his draft day stock at next month's MLS Combine and as an International player is liable to drop down the board a bit. And hey, having a Brazilian Sounder would be a nice touch in this WC year.
Should the Sounders Trade Up to Get Any of These Players?
Of these players, my initial reaction is that only Mullins and Stolz would be worth moving up to the top 5 if they are available. Ribeiro, Munoz and Diouf might be worth moving up to the 6th or 7th pick, depending on the Sounders' individual evaluation of them. There are some quality CB prospects in this year's draft as well as a solid GA target Goal Keeper, but neither of these is a position of need for the Sounders and I doubt they make a move to land one of them. I could see the Sounders make a move up if someone they like falls to within striking distance, but I doubt that anyone will cause them to go after a top 5 pick.