As you should all be aware,* last year my Top 4 picks in the draft were: Josh Yaro, Jonathon Campbell, Brandon Vincent, and Keegan Rosenberry. Of those 4, the Fire got two and Philly took the others. J-Camp and K-Rose showed amazing class last year while Yaro and Vincent showed their strong potential. This year, I've got another Top 4 for Pauno to check out and hopefully consider (especially a specific two).
Since I know we have two draft picks this year, I decided to make it easier for Pauno by sectioning off two to a pick, one as my go-to, the other as cover if the other is gone.
Let’s get started!
Round One, Pick Three
If I had the number one pick in the draft, my decision still wouldn't change: I want this guy. And this guy might just be available. Straight outta Dortmund, this right back is exactly what we need. He's a solid defender, but has recently learned to attack. Out of his 19 total assists, 11 came from this season and that is a whole lot better than Ramos and Harrington combined (just a guess here). That's good news for the Fire as that's just what the Fire should have opposite Vincent. In fact, he's kind of similar to Vincent in that aspect except hopefully better. For those interested in results: Kubel made 7 appearances with the Dortmund II team and over here he has been in the All-ACC team all three years. Though he's number three on Top Drawer, he's number two in my heart (more on that later).
Midfielder, Wake Forest
You may recognize this name. This guy is the son of legendary US Soccer figure, John Harkes. Technically he was born in Derby because his dad was playing there, but he came back to go to the DC Academy. Why do I still have him on this list? Apparently DC isn’t interested (or so I’ve heard) so why not look at him a bit closer. After all, he is a MAC Hermann finalist this year. Now for the facts. This year he scored 5 goals, moving his career total to 9. So I guess you wouldn’t call him too much of a goalscoring type. OTOH, to date he has 18 assists in the college game, but with only 4 coming from this past season. I personally think that this year was just because he moved into a bit more of a defensive position, causing him to not realize his true potential as a #10 facilitator. Though he can play anywhere in the midfield, his true calling is right where his father was back in the day. In terms of accolades, He’s been in the All-ACC First Team the past two years and won Mifielder of the Year this year. My only worry is that he didn’t get invited to the combine. Hopefully he gets called in, but if he isn’t I’ll explain in the combine article why this is such a bad thing (though you can probably guess why).
Round One, Pick Eleven
Forward, Florida Gulf Coast
So here’s the guy I’ve been in love with ever since I checked his stats page. From Barcelona (not the academy, I mean the city), the whole point is that he scored 22 goals this season. He blitzed the record for the fastest hat trick in NCAA history and I think that he can only go up from here. The big question that most would have is, “Is this year a fluke?” True, he’d only scored 8 goals before this year, but he’s only a junior (yes, I’m betting on a GA contract). In fact, he appeared like he was about to do it last year, but he didn’t get the playing time to do it. This year he’s won the A-SUN Player of the Year award and is the other draft-eligible MAC Hermann Finalist. Why take him at 11th? Because I think he’ll be here. Even though I think he’s the best player in the draft, I’m fairly certain not everyone sees his potential (Top Drawer only puts him at #17). In fact, he also hasn’t been invited to the combine (which is, once again, a deeply worrying situation). And if we are getting Nikolic, I think that this guy might just have the ability to move on the right as an attacking winger. If we don’t sign him, well this is our new target striker!
Here’s our super backup plan! A redshirt senior fullback! This is definitely a need based pick as I just really want to drop Harrington (sorry, not sorry). The good news is that our backup plan can technically be someone’s first pick, so I guess we’d still be getting a good deal. This guy is a Second Team All-American and won the Summit League Defensive Player of the Year. He did that by defending. A simple concept, I know, but the point I’m making is that “Reggie” isn’t an attacking fullback. He sits back and defends, which is something I think Pauno may like judging by our tactics earlier in the season (BOOM, roasted). Normally I’d put up their stats, but his aren’t really impressive because of how good he is at defending. I may be sounding sarcastic, but defense isn’t just something you can quantify easily, so this is just a judgement decision. Top Drawer agrees with me by putting him at number five, but he’ll likely drop in the draft.
Bonus Round: Goalkeeper Picks!
The Fire need goalkeepers right now; so since this is an article about where the Fire should draft for need, Here comes a couple of keepers!
Goalkeeper, Notre Dame
Once again, we don’t have to look far for the consensus best available. As is tradition among goalkeeping in college, you don’t start or even play until your junior unless you’re really good. Chris follows that tradition and in his first real season he proved why that waiting is good for him as he went for a <1 GAA (or as I like to say in my mixed sports mind, “ERA”) and 8 shutouts. He kept it up this year and though he had a lower save percentage, he also had lowered his ERA. Over those two years he’s gained 23 wins, an .800 ERA, and a .772 save percentage. At 6’3”, 207 lbs, he’s a real prescence in the goal and in my search I found someone say that he is one of those clutch players that can hold off the opposition’s attack until his offense can get it going. It just so happens that our offense takes a while to kick in, so it would be nice to have someone back there who can do that. Maybe someone like Sea- I mean Chris Hubbard. He is the highest rated goalkeeper on Top Drawer because of it, being placed at #31.
Goalkeeper, Wake Forest
I didn’t think much of this guy at first, but the more I looked at his stats and the more I thought about it, this guy should be our go-to goalkeeper in the draft (maybe first pick of the second round). You know how I said in the last report that it’s tradition to not start until junior year? This guy was battling for that spot since his (red-shirt) freshman season. Although he started off with a pretty average to maybe less than average ERA, he has improved to having a 0.54 ERA this past season. So although he has a higher one than Chris (0.89), Alec has a lower one in the same seasons as him. Even more, Alec is actually from Chicago. If Nelson wants goalkeepers to “go home”, why not bring this kid in? He has a career total of 40 wins, 22 shutouts, a .797 save percentage, and is even taller than Chris at 6’4”. Alec’s even got some accolades to back him up, with First Team All-ACC this year. He’s #44 on Top Drawer, but as it looks here, I’d put him over Chris. For a final thought, I’ll let him do the talking from a self-evaluation report for college recruiters, “I have all of the physical attributes to play in goal. I am really focusing on the mental aspect of the game because I believe that is where goalkeepers distinguish themselves.” Hopefully those traits can help fill in the freshly-made hole in the backfield and keep us steady in the back.
So it seems that, if my calculations are correct, our next draft will see us getting our best player second. In fact, in the next round of Jiggly’s Draft Talk 2017 we’ll look at last year’s draft through a lens of then and now. Who won the draft, who got screwed, and what really happened with that Harrison/Vincent trade? All that coming soon enough, so stay tuned.
*Ed: Should we, Jiggly? Heh.