You've seen mock drafts and big boards here and elsewhere. I'm going to try to provide something a little different with this column, since MLS teams tend to draft for positional need rather than pure talent. Certain positions will be prioritized. That's always been a fact in the SuperDraft.
So here we have a "positional big board," which I've thrown together based upon talks with folks in MLS, college folks, other analysts and a whole lot of film.
Away we go:
- Andy Pannenberg, Wake Forest: Draft Range: Mid-first round to somewhere in the third round. He'll have his name called at some point.
- Mathjis Swanveld, Virginia Tech: Draft Range: Second round to undrafted. It's tough to spend an international roster slot on a back-up 'keeper, which is what Swanveld would likely be.
- Colin Shutler, Virginia: Draft Range: Mid-first round to somewhere in the third round. Shutler's a polarizing prospect, but it's possible someone falls in love with him as high as the 14th pick.
- Matt Di Rosa, Maryland: Draft Range: 8th through 20th. Di Rosa is probably the top left back on the board and Maryland is a talent factory. I'll be genuinely surprised if he lasts until the 20th pick, which is the absolute floor, and he could easily go as high as 8th since the Timbers need left back depth.
- Aedan Stanley, Duke/Sporting KC 2: Draft Range: Anywhere from 8th through 20th. The Timbers have a history of picking their former U23s and need LB depth, so Stanley makes sense for them if they pass on Di Rosa. Even if Stanley's not picked 8th, he won't drop too far.
- Josh Drack, University of Denver: Draft Range: 10-20. Drack is a true, left-footed attacking fullback who'd fit well any number of places, but probably goes later than Di Rosa and Stanley.
- Avionne Flanagan, USF: Draft Range: Late-1st to early-2nd round. Flanagan has flown somewhat under the radar, but has picked up some buzz in recent days.
- Ethan Bartlow, Washington (GA): Draft Range: Top four. He could go as high as No. 2 (which is where I think he'll land) but I can't conceive of him lasting beyond D.C. United with the fourth pick.
- Josh Bauer, New Hampshire: Draft Range: 2-through-6. It's conceivable that FC Cincinnati decide they want Bauer over Bartlow, though that feels unlikely.
- Nabi Kibunguchy, UC-Davis: Draft Range: 4-though-10. If Bartlow and Bauer are off the board when D.C. pick, Kibunguchy could go as high as fourth. I genuinely don't think he'll drop past No. 7, but we'll see. Tenth is the absolute floor.
- Rio Hope-Gund, Georgetown: Draft Range: 7-through-16. A true, no-frills CB who can pass a little bit even though the Hoyas don't really knock it around much or try to play out.
- Aime Mabika, Kentucky: Draft Range: 7-through-16. Mabika is huge, at 6-foot-6, and isn't as polished as the guys ahead of him on this list, but might have more upside.
- Michael DeShields, Wake Forest/New England Revolution 2: Draft Range: 17-through-2nd round. DeShields is a fairly polarizing prospect, but given the program he comes from and his USL experience, I suspect he'll go in the first round. The Revs are a decent bet at pick No. 24, obviously.
- Talen Maples, SMU: Draft Range: 15-through-2nd round. Maples has trained with FC Dallas and is a converted d-mid, so he can pass the ball. He's small for an MLS defender, though, which is why it's easy to imagine him dropping.
- Freddy Kleeman, Washington: Draft Range: Late-1st to early-2nd round. Kleeman is a giant, at 6-foot-4, and has serious interest in the back half of the first round.
- Bret Halsey, Virginia (GA): Draft Range: 7-through-15. Halsey bounced between central midfield and right back in college, but the MLS folks I've spoken with seem him as a RB at the professional level. I don't expect him to slide out of the top 10.
- Logan Panchot, Stanford: Draft Range: Late 1st-to-early-2nd round. Panchot is the consensus second-best RB on the board, and my guess is we hear his name called before the end of the first round. He'd make a lot of sense for Columbus at No. 27 if he's still on the board.
- Ben Di Rosa, Maryland: Draft Range: Late 1st-to-early-2nd round. The right-footed Di Rosa is the mirror image of his brother.
- Justin Malou, Clemson: Draft Range: Late 1st-to-early-2nd-round. Malou played three years of fullback in college, but is a throw-back – he's not an overlapping, attacking piece. He moved to center back in his senior season and was very good, but is undersized for the spot in MLS.
- Philip Mayaka, Clemson (GA): Draft Range: 1. He's the most obvious No. 1 overall pick since Cyle Larin in 2015, or maybe even all the way back to Steve Zakuani in 2009. It'll be a shock if anyone else hears their name called first.
- Daniel Pereira, Virginia Tech (GA): Draft Range: 3-through-11. Given that Houston filled their biggest need (CB) by trading for Tim Parker, that should clear the way for them to take Pereira third. He's a high-usage No. 8
who has a Green Card, so he's a perfect fit. EDIT: Pereira does not, in fact, have a Green Card, which changes things a bit. He's still a top three talent in the draft, but teams are often hesitant to spend an international roster slot on a draft pick.
- Daniel Steedman, Virginia/Atlanta United 2: Draft Range: Mid-1st to early-2nd round. Steedman, like a few others on the draft list, has already suited up in the USL. He's primaril beeny an attacking player, but the feeling is he will evolve into more of a tempo-setting central midfielder who makes late, box-arriving runs like Cole Bassett.
- Louis Perez, UCF: Draft Range: Mid-1st to 2nd round. Perez is technical, savvy and is reportedly close to getting a Green Card – obviously a good thing for fitting under roster limits.
- Nicky Hernandez, SMU/North Texas SC: Draft Range: Mid-1st to 2nd round. Hernandez spent most of his minutes, both in college and in the USL, as a true No. 8. He's familiar with Dallas and they're very familiar with him.
- Irakoze Donasiyano, Virginia: Draft Range: Second half of Round 1. Donasiyano was all over the place in college, from central midfield to attacker to wingback to fullback. He could be interesting as a pressing No. 10 a la Latif Blessing, but my hunch is he ends up out wide for someone.
- Giuseppe Barone, Michigan State: Draft Range: Late-1st to second round. Barone's slid off some radars after missing the 2019 season with an injury and then having the 2020 Big Ten season canceled due to the pandemic.
- Calvin Harris, Wake Forest (GA): Draft Range: 2nd through 7th. Harris is considered the second-best prospect on the board, but teams generally need CB help via the draft more than winger help, so he could drop if Cincy don't snap him up.
- Rodney Michael, UCSB: Draft Range: 10th-through-early 2nd round. There's a huge variance in where folks see Michael, who is absolutely electric both on and off the ball.
- Kimarni Smith, Clemson: Draft Range: 6th-through-18th. Smith is a much more known quantity than Michael, and has serious top-10 interest after shining for one of the most heavily scouted programs in the country.
- Josh Penn, Indiana/Indy XI: Draft Range: 10th-through-20th The former US youth national teamer is another live-wire wide attacker. He's not expected to get past Nashville at No. 20, and could go much higher.
- Justin McMaster, Wake Forest: Draft Range: Mid-to-late 1st round. McMaster would be a top-10 pick if he hadn't done his ACL back in 2019. He looked healthy but rusty in 2020.
- Edward Kizza, Pittsburgh: Draft Range: 6-through-12. Kizza is a clever, fox-in-the-box type who lit it up for Pittsburgh in 2018 and 2019, but missed the entire 2020 season for off-field reasons.
- David Egbo, Akron: Draft Range: 6-through-12. Egbo is almost entirely reliant upon good service, but so is Gyasi Zardes and Gyasi scores 15 goals a year. Like Gyasi, Egbo is well built and clever in his movement off the ball.
- Luther Archimede, Syracuse: Draft Range: Late-1st to early-2nd round. Archimede passes the eye test in every way, but his productivity wasn't great. He could pan out, but feels like the type of project who would need to hone his instincts for a year or two in the USL.
- Danny Trejo, CSU-Northridge: Draft Range: Late-1st to early-2nd round. A bit of a 'tweener who has played some as a 9 and some as a 10, Trejo might fit best at the MLS level as sort of a false 9 or even on the wing, where he can slice through defenses like a machete (I am sorry, I had to).
- Derek Dodson, Georgetown: Draft Range: Late-1st to early-2nd round. A solidly built, no-nonsense center forward who makes good runs and isn't afraid to mix it up with opposing center backs.