On Sunday, SB Nation held their annual mock MLS SuperDraft and I was Hot Time in Old Town's representative. It was certainly a fun experience and one that highlighted some of the different ways that people make determinations on who the best fit for their club might be.
I admittedly haven't had the chance to do quite as much research as some of my SB Nation peers, but I felt that I had a good grasp of the kinds of players available and what would work for the Fire.
Some of the early picks weren't all that surprising, but I certainly noticed one name in particular who was dropping in a way I hadn't expected. And when he was still available at #11, I made no hesitations in selecting Furman defender Walker Zimmerman.
One of the first comments that I received on the pick was that selected Zimmerman was akin to the Packers taking Aaron Rodgers in the first round of the 2005 NFL Draft. Someone else (read: not me) quickly quipped with something to the effect of, "and look how that turned out."
I believe that criticism is somewhat warranted. The Fire already have three center-backs who are capable of starting in German international Arne Friedrich, 2012 Rookie of the Year Austin Berry and Jalil Anibaba. However, an injury to any of those guys would leave the Men in Red remarkably thin on the back line. Cory Gibbs retired this past off-season. Steven Kinney hasn't played in an MLS match since 2010. Tony Walls may one day be a reliable backup, but the 2012 supplemental pick has yet to make his first league appearance. Natural midfielders Logan Pause and Michael Vidiera could move to the back line in an emergency, but that's not ideal by any stretch.
Another thing to point out is that the MLS draft isn't nearly as deep as the NFL, NBA or even the MLB draft. So much of the league's young talent comes from other means, such as international signings. Plus, the emergence of homegrown players and academies has allowed clubs to identify players at a much younger age.
So, in my opinion, the best way for clubs to utilize the draft most effectively is to select either players with the most potential or who are the most pro-ready as opposed to trying to draft for need. While there are plenty of gems to be found (like Hunter Jumper in last year's draft), there are a number of players who simply don't make the cut (Lucky Mkosana).
All that comes before taking a look at Zimmerman himself. Soccer By Ives has him listed as the second best player available. He's young, he's tall, he's American, and he's Generation Adidas. Certainly there are no slam dunks, but it would seem to me like he's about as close to a "can't miss" as there is in this draft.
Now, it's highly unlikely that Zimmerman will drop all the way to #11 on Thursday. If he did drop to a certain point, it's likely another club would draft up to take him (the SB Nation mock draft didn't include trades). If that happens, my second choice would probably be striker Kekuta Manneh due to his upside and GA status. It's also possible the Fire may look to move up or acquire additional picks by dangling an out-of-favor player such as speedy winger/forward Dominic Oduro.
I have a lot of faith in Fire Head Coach Frank Klopas' ability to evaluate young talent. Last year was this first year of drafting as a full-time head coach and he did an excellent job. Here's hoping that Thursday in Indianapolis will be a repeat of that.