A lot can be said about how a team drafts. Some folks have noted how well teams that draft quality players do in the league. Teams like Sporting KC, the Chicago Fire, the Houston Dynamo, and the LA Galaxy are all examples of teams that draft very well. A big reason for that is due to the amount of playing time that drafted players get on those squads.
On the flip side, teams that aren’t using as many drafted players have been struggling.
So what exactly is the best way to go to have success at the SuperDraft? For some clubs it does come down to long scouting processes of these young players. Most teams do not have a guy that is able to go out 100% of the time and scout the college game – that would be pretty pricy for just about any club in the league.
What teams are able to do is watch a lot of film on these players thanks to TV deals that most major college conferences have these days. Throw that in with some local schools, big tournament games and of course the speed-dating weekend that is the MLS Combine and most teams will have their boards pretty set come Thursday.
There are different schools of thought depending on where you draft too. Draft high in the first round and you are going for talent. Draft later in the first round or just in the second round and you are hoping for the best player available. Other clubs are just going for pure depth.
Best player available route
This may be the most common route that we’ll see on Thursday. Many teams have a big board and if their guy is there when their number is called, you can bet they’ll take him.
Snagging the best player available isn’t the worst way to go either. In most cases it is the only way to go as the best guy available may be a Generation adidas player, which means their salary won’t count on your club’s books for a couple of seasons. Not a bad deal at all.
For me you’ll see a lot of clubs go this route from about the sixth or seventh pick on until you reach the second round. Teams will have their guy in their mind but if someone better somehow slips to them that they weren’t expecting you can expect them to draft that way. I look at Real Salt Lake’s draft last year when Enzo Martinez slipped to them in the late first round. Most, including myself, expected Martinez to be snagged a pick or two higher. RSL did what they had to do and took the best player available at that point in the draft.
Drafting for depth
A number of clubs will be going this direction as well on Thursday. Teams like Houston, San Jose, LA, Seattle and Sporting KC are all looking for cheap but reliable depth with their selections. Sure if that happens to be the best player available as well, all the better. But these teams need depth pieces for their busy seasons ahead. When you have an extra set of games on your schedule, you have to build your roster accordingly to accommodate it. It is as simple as that.
Luckily for those clubs (and others looking to do the same in the second round), there are plenty of quality depth pieces in this draft.
Drafting Generation adidas
Of the seven GA players on the table, you could say that three or four of them will go in the first five picks. The rest will slip anywhere between six and 12 at this point given how things are going at the Combine.
Drafting GA players is always tricky. Sure there is an incentive for getting the best young talent in the league at a good price (one that doesn’t go against the salary cap). But, for some of these young players they need the proper place to develop and some teams just don’t have the time to sit around and wait a year or two for them to “get it”.
I look at FC Dallas for instance, they sit at a perfect spot to snag at least one of the seven GA’s on the board but talking to Schellas Hyndman and knowing how he’s drafted the last four years will tell you he isn’t inclined to just go for a GA because they are there. He, like several coaches in this league, want a guy that can contribute right away.
Sure most of these GAs probably can but there are factors involved that may slow down their progress like a veteran All Star playing in the same position as them or an early injury in training camp. It all happens.
Just like the RSL example above, just because a GA is there doesn’t mean a team has to draft him. Don’t be shocked if at least one of the GAs falls again to the mid-to-late first round.
Trading up/trading down
Some teams know what they want and have the pieces to make a deal while others may be looking to use their drafting position to their advantage to snag some allocation or a player and get their guy at a later pick.
Look at both Toronto and Chivas for these examples. Toronto has two of the first three picks and according to some folks that I’ve talked to, they’ve been getting a lot of nibbles at both of those picks. Chivas could be in the same boat too as they may want a guy like Carlos Alvarez but may not want to spend the number 2 pick (their only pick) on him.
Trading up and down in the draft is always risky but this could be a draft that we see a fair amount of movement on draft day since the talent level isn’t exactly as high as we’ve seen in the past. My gut tells me we’ll see at least one deal involving picks in the top 10 on Thursday.