Richie Laryea - 2016 adidas MLS Player Combine
Andy Mead / MLS

Armchair Analyst: Ranking the top 5 MLS SuperDraft prospects at each position

I have a pet theory, and it's this: In each SuperDraft, there are about three kids so talented that they can't mess it up. It may take them one year, or it may take them five, but eventually they'll come good and be superior soccer players.

For literally everybody else in the draft, it's all about fit. Did you land with a coach who believes in you? Did you get into a team that can develop you? Are you surrounded by good pros who are willing to teach you and walk you through the mistakes that you'll inevitably make? Does your organization believe in teachable moments?

If you take two similarly talented players and put one in the situation described above and the other in a "sink or swim" environment, chances are you'll have one success and one failure.

The SuperDraft is a crapshoot in that way. So bear this in mind when you read the below lists, as the talent differential isn't huge, and "fit" is way more important than almost any other factor.

FORWARDS

1. Fabian Herbers, Creighton (GA) – More of a second forward than a center forward, Herbers will go high in this one. Has an extraordinarily heavy shot.
2. Ben Polk, Syracuse – Has looked much more effective playing on the wing than as a No. 9. Any team that plays a 4-3-3 will consider him.
3. Christopher Hellmann, Lynn – A German who tore it up in Division II and for Des Moines in the PDL. His movement has been excellent – he plays the game like a veteran.
4. Colin Bonner, UNC-Wilmington – Giant center forward moves better than expected and has good vision. Teams that need a specialist will consider him.
5. Michael Salazar, UC-Riverside – He's been mostly quiet, but his movement in the final third is smart and aggessive. Like Herbers he's a second forward, not a real No. 9.

WINGERS

1. Jack Harrison, Wake Forest (GA) – He was a central midfielder in college and hasn't played in the Combine, but most I've talked to think he'll be a left midfielder in the pros.
2. Eric Verso, Stanford – One of the NCAA assist leaders this past year, Verso has been the best attacking player at the Combine. Probably best suited to a wide role for a team that plays a 4-4-2.
3. Tsubasa Endoh, Maryland – Has helped his stock a ton. His movement in the final third is clever, and his touches on the ball are efficient.
4. Neco Brett, Robert Morris – The pace of a pure winger, but instincts to get into the box like a forward. If Brett lands on the right squad, he'll be a player.
5. Michael Gamble, Wake Forest – He's been a little bit anonymous, but the skill with the ball is there, as is his willingness to try to make the spectacular play.

CENTRAL MIDFIELDERS

1. Julian Buescher, Syracuse (GA) – The best passer at the Combine by miles, Buescher dominated before limping off with a hamstring injury. There are questions about his ability to cover ground defensively, but I think somebody will draft him and start him as a regista.
2. Omar Holness, North Carolina (GA) – People seem to want him on the wing, but I think Holness is best as a box-to-box runner like Roger Espinoza.
3. Richie Laryea, Akron (GA) – Another guy with positional questions. Laryea's not going to control the midfield, but he's quick, skillful and productive.
4. Todd Wharton, Virginia – Has not had a good Combine, but I love his ability to play properly paced one-touch passes. Given the continuity of a defined team scheme, he will be an asset.
5. Emmanuel Appiah, Cincinnati – A pure destroyer who covers a ton of ground, Appiah's impressed scouts by showing more passing skill than many expected.

LEFT BACKS

1. Brandon Vincent, Stanford (GA) – Some coaches/GMs aren't sold that he has enough upside, but when the downside is "best defensive left back in the league for a decade," you make the pick. Vincent's a monster.
2. Justin Bilyeu, SIU-Edwardsville – Has actually spent more time in central defense at the Combine and has looked good. He'll offer some flexibility to teams.
3. Elias Gomez, Argentina – Gomez is a pure, overlapping threat who has been in the Rosario Central first team for several years.
4. Max Lachowecki, Notre Dame – Solid and composed, if unspectacular on both sides of the ball.
5. Josh Turnley, Georgetown – Turnley was a three-year starter for the Hoyas who constantly willed himself to become a better player. Coaches like that mentality.

RIGHT BACKS

1. Keegan Rosenberry, Georgetown – Rosenberry's been so good on both sides of the ball here and did better in agility testing – a key component of defending at his position – than teams were expecting.
2. Jordan McCrary, North Carolina – Had an outstanding season after missing 2014 with an ACL tear. McCrary always looks like one of the quickest players on the field.
3. Dennis Castillo, VCU – Castillo hasn't offered much going forward, but he looks impossible to beat 1-on-1. Instinctually a more natural center back, but lacks size for that spot.
4. Duncan Backus, UCSB – A "defense-first" option who also spent quite a bit of time in midfield during his college days.
5. Vincent Keller, Creighton – Keller, a 23-year-old German, had a huge season for the Bluejays. He plays smart, simple and mistake-free soccer.

CENTER BACKS

1. Josh Yaro, Georgetown (GA) – I think he's a center back, but Taylor Twellman (and others) think he's a right back. This could end up being an Andrew Farrell situation, where he begins his career at one spot before moving to the other. Like Farrell, he really should be the No. 1 pick.
2. Jonathan Campbell, North Carolina – He hasn't been great at the Combine, but his college career suggests a guy who'll put up many good years in MLS.
3. Tyler David, St. Louis – A four-year starter at a college that produces pros, and his soccer upbringing is legit. David played some D-mid in college, but he's a pure center back in MLS.
4. Cole Seiler, Georgetown – Seiler is smart and steady defensively, and brings the ability to switch the field of play with accurate long-balls.
5. Kyle Fisher, Clemson – A leader and a winner in college, there are concerns about his size and health at the next level. Had a bad College Cup final against Stanford and hasn't stood out at the Combine.

GOALKEEPER

1. Andrew Tarbell, Clemson (GA) – He's an A-plus shot-stopper and is good at collecting crosses, but can be slow off his line and doesn't yet have great feet.
2. Callum Irving, Kentucky – He and the 'Caps mutually decided he wouldn't sign in Vancouver as a Homegrown. Irving plays good angles and comes off his line quickly.
3. Wade Hamilton, Cal Poly-SLO – Hamilton's made some of the best saves of the Combine thus far, and has four years as a starter in college to back it up.
4. Ryan Herman, Washington – Got beat near post on a goal, which isn't a great look, but the massive (6-foot-7) 'keeper was a superb shot-stopper for the Huskies.
5. Connor Sparrow, Creighton – Sparrow hasn't been bad, but he hasn't stood out, either. His college resume remains impressive.

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