The MLS SuperDraft has not always been kind to the Seattle Sounders. Ever since grabbing Steve Zakuani with their first-ever pick in 2009 -- he went No. 1 -- the Sounders have managed to find several solid contributors, but have yet to select a player who started in as many as half the team's games in any one season.
This is not a product of indifference, as has sometimes been suggested. While it's true that they've only made one pick in the top half of the first round since 2009 -- when they selected Damion Lowe at No. 8 in 2014 -- they've aggressively traded up in three consecutive drafts in order to select a player they said they valued highly.
It's through this lens that we must view Thursday's draft results.
Yes, the Sounders got their man. As far back as last year, Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid has been singing the praises of Cristian Roldan and probably would have selected him then if he given the chance then. There wasn't a player available with whom the Sounders were more familiar and it's entirely possible that if they somehow had the No. 1 pick in the draft that they'd have used that pick on Roldan.
Maybe the Sounders over sold the degree to which they were that Eriq Zavaleta (in 2013) and Lowe were great values in previous drafts, but they weren't faking their reaction after Garth Lagerwey completed the trade that allowed them to pick Roldan: They believe in the University of Washington midfielder and are convinced of his ability to succeed in MLS.
All that said, I think Sounder at Heart was a little kind in giving the Sounders an unwavering "A" in SB Nation's Draft Grades. I will agree that the Sounders deserve their grade as much as anyone in that article -- for the most part, there was a lot of grade inflation -- but I think the grade at least deserves a bit more explanation.
Roldan: As stated, the Sounders got their man. Roldan may not be a star in the making and it's easy enough to admit that his upside might not be quite as high as some of the 15 players selected ahead of him. But if the Sounders were looking for a player who could compete for time right away and still develop into a very good MLS center mid, well, it's easy enough to buy what they're selling.
Roldan has a great attitude and a quiet confidence that comes from years of being mostly overlooked and needing to prove himself over and over again. "Falling" about 14 spots in the draft based mostly on a couple days of competition at the oddly timed draft combine -- seriously, it's basically in the middle of the college offseason and basically ensures that prospects will be in their worst possible form -- will only serve to strengthen his resolve.
The Sounders gave up somewhere in the neighborhood of $100,000 in Allocation Money to get him, but it's money they had to spend. At least until proven otherwise, there's absolutely no good reason not to like this move. Giving it an "A" seems entirely fair.
Tyler Miller: This pick is a little trickier to grade. On one hand, Miller was considered one of the top goalkeeper available in the draft. The 6-foot-4 product of Northwestern allowed just 13 goals in 22 games during his senior season and could very well develop into a very good professional goalkeeper. But the pick is risky.
Miller skipped the combine in order to trial in Germany and it's entirely possible that he'll catch on with some team. That's not an immediate issue for the Sounders, but the reality is that they only hold his rights for two years. Word is that he's on trial with fourth-division clubs in Germany. While the immediate prospect of playing for one of them might not be much better than signing with S2, it's possible he gets the kind of exposure that quickly makes him attractive to bigger clubs. If he's as good as the Sounders think, he might not be ready to return to MLS in two years.
So the appropriate question here is "what was the Sounders' opportunity cost?" Giving up Sean Okoli was hardly a pittance. The talented 21-year-old showed flashes of being a very good MLS player a year ago, most notably in his four-minute performance against Sporting Kansas City in the season opener when he set up the winning goal.
But Okoli's path to increased playing time on the first team has only gotten more crowded since last season. The Sounders have signed Homegrown Players Victor Mansaray and Darwin Jones, both players who fill similar roles and may have even higher upsides. Chances are, Okoli was bound for S2 and the trade at least gives him a chance to make a first-team roster. This could turn out to be a bad trade for the Sounders, but it's at least a reasonable risk. That said, I think a "B" is a reasonable grade for this pick.
Oniel Fisher: The Sounders' final pick of the first day of the draft was No. 40 overall, using it to select New Mexico outside back Oniel Fisher. Picking anyone this late is a bit of a crapshoot, but the Sounders seemed to get some value. Fisher has a cap with Jamaica and has been a part of their youth setup. The Sounders also claimed that Fisher was the best outside back at the combine, which could be true but also has a good chance of being a stretch.
Either way, it's a pick with some upside and that's all you can really ask this late in the draft. I'll give it a "B."
Overall: Average those three grades together and maybe give a bit more weight to the first-round pick, you end up with a weighted "A-". As Garth Lagerwey said after the draft, it's impossible to really grade this until we're 2-3 years out, but for now that seems entirely fair. There's a very real chance this is the Sounders' best-ever draft.