One of the common critiques of Sigi Schmid's five-year tenure of the Seattle Sounders is that the draft has not yielded as much talent as might be expected from a coach who maintains such strong ties to the college game. To a degree, it's a fair critique. By my count, the Sounders have picked 28 players in five years of drafts. Many of those picks were never supposed to pan out, but the fact remains that only 10 of them are even still on MLS rosters and only nine have come anywhere close to establishing themselves as useful professional players.
On paper, that doesn't look great. Without looking at literally every roster and doing the same kind of analysis, though, it's impossible for me to say how bad or good it really is. For the sake of argument -- and to save me a ton of research that I'm not interested in doing at the moment -- let's just say that the Sounders' record of draft success is no better than average.
The reality is that the Sounders have only picked two players within the first 10 picks, Steve Zakuani and Eriq Zavaleta, which is where most of the talent usually comes from.
That doesn't mean I intend to simply let the Sounders off the hook, though (and really what would be the point of writing this?). What I've done is gone through each of the Sounders' five drafts (I've treated the Supplemental drafts as merely an extension of the SuperDraft) and looked at who was picked and who was missed. It's not the super in-depth analysis that would potentially "prove" how good or bad the Sounders are, but it at least gives some context. As a reminder, the Sounders hold the Nos. 13, 21, 55 and 77 picks in Thursday's draft.
How they did: Until Zakuani's horrific leg injury in 2011, he was well on his way to being one of the best if not the best player from that draft, notching 16 goals and 12 assists in 64 appearances and trending upward. As we know, he hasn't been the same since. Fucito was the only other player to make a MLS appearance and could generally be considered a very good pick, considering where the Sounders got him.
Who they missed: Omar Gonzalez (4), Matt Besler (8), George John (14), AJ DelaGarza (19), Graham Zusi (23), Danny Cruz (41). Admittedly, that list is uncomfortably long and includes three guys that might be starting for the United States in Brazil. Gonzalez and Besler stand out among the potential No. 1 picks and DeLaGarza and Zusi were both available in the second round. Imagine how different the Sounders' fortunes might have been if they had picked Gonzalez and Zusi with their top two picks. Actually, don't do that, it won't be fun. The miss on Zusi is especially galling
as he's a UCLA product and someone that Schmid should have had some level of insight into (just a really good player who went to Maryland, whoops!). In the Sounders' defense, though, picking Gonzalez over Zakuani is really a hindsight pick as picking offense made sense there.
Grade: B-, even if we give them a pass on Zakuani, those other misses are painful.
How they did: When people talk about the Sounders reaching, this is the draft they are really talking about. No one really ranked Estrada that high and for a couple years it looked to be a pretty massive miss. But Estrada has actually turned into a decent replacement-level player. I still think Seamon might have a MLS future, even though he's currently out of the league.
Who they missed: Tim Ream (18), Seth Sinovic (25), Justin Morrow (28), Steven Beitashour (30), Chris Schuler (39), Eric Alexander (44), Sean Johnson (51). The length of this list makes it look worse than it really is, as it requires a lot of hindsight. Would Ream have been better than Estrada? Possibly, although I'm not his biggest fan. Would Morrow, Beitashour or Schuler have bee better picks than Seamon? Yes. Are any of these players the kind of picks that dramatically alter the course of your franchise? No.
How they did: After trading down, the Sounders had four second-round picks. I'd say Carrasco is the only one who really worked out. Caskey, though, was a pretty good find at that point. The jury is still very much out on Ford, who remains with the team but has not played in a MLS match.
Who they missed: Will Bruin* (11), Michael Farfan (23), Stephen McCarthy (24), Joao Plata (49). I include Bruin because he was picked with the Sounders' original pick, although the trade was apparently made before they knew who would be available. Obviously, sticking in that spot would have been better than Tetteh, but the Sounders also got allocation money and that makes it a very hard equation. While any of Farfan, McCarthy and Plata were obviously better picks than Tetteh or Cruz (who was ultimately traded for Andy Rose), these aren't franchise altering players. The early misses aside, I think the Sounders did OK here.
Grade: B, which is knocked to a C- if we factor in the trade that cost them Bruin.
How they did: Oh boy, this was not pretty. The only useful player they picked up was Rose and that was, technically, a Real Salt Lake pick (although the trade was worked out beforehand). Rose at least has the potential of making this draft not look as awful, but right now this is probably the worst draft they've had.
Who they missed: Dom Dwyer (16), Ray Gaddis (35), Sebastian Velasquez (36). And, yet, I'm not super high on any of the guys they missed. Might Dwyer turn into a good player? Yes. Would he have been a better pick than Duran? Most certainly. But it's also worth pointing out that Dwyer has just three MLS goals in 22 appearances over two seasons. I think people look at his 15 goals in 13 USL-Pro games and see a future star. That's fair, but he's hardly a finished product. Gaddis and Velasquez are fine MLS players, but in a couple years I doubt we'll be talking about either.
Grade: C-, only because this draft was pretty weak.
Sounders picks: Eriq Zavaleta (10), Dylan Remick (35), Will Bates (43), Kevin Durr (54), Kevin Oliali (73), Lebogang Meloto (92), Jennings Rex (111).
How they did: The top three picks ended up making the team and I suppose there's still a chance that Durr returns after finishing his time with the Air Force. As of today, none of them look like budding stars, but it's obviously way too early to tell. Remick is currently in line to be the backup left back and Zavaleta could still develop into a competent forward or center back. I'm not particularly bullish on Bates, but we'll see. It should also be pointed out that the Sounders signed DeAndre Yedlin right before the draft and I can honestly say there's not a single player in this draft who I'd rather have.
Who they missed: Dillon Powers (11), Kofie Opare (24), Devon Sandoval (29), Adam Jahn (53). Picking Zavaleta one spot ahead of Powers and Remick instead of Sandoval hurts a bit. Power, in particular, looks like he might be a future United States national teamer, so that may well prove to be one of those picks that haunts the club.
If we use the good ol' grading scale, we come with an average grade of 2.16 for the Sounders. That's a solid C, trending toward C+. It's definitely not good, but it's not awful. Is it good enough, especially considering this a team who has a head coach and a Sporting Director that presumably know the college game really well and also conducts its own combine? No, it's not. While I think some of the critiques are a bit over the top, there's clearly room for critique. I do think that it's worth pointing out, though, that aside from 2009 there haven't been a ton of potentially course-changing talents available to the Sounders in the draft.
It's also very important to note that most of the guys the Sounders missed were missed by virtually everyone else, as well. So, it's unfair to expect them to have picked more than one or two of these guys.