The 2020 MLS Draft kicks off on Thursday, and while it will have a different feel to past drafts because of the change in presentation, it will still be an event for teams to try and land some difference-making talent.
The SBI MLS Draft Big Board will drop later on Monday, but for now here is a look at how we could see the first round shaking out. There are sure to be some trades made as some teams look to get out of the first-round, while some others look to rack up on bargain-priced draft picks.
Something else to consider is the harsh reality that some very talented international players will see their draft stock take major hits because MLS teams are growing more and more reluctant to select foreign players because of limited international roster slots and the increased resources available to sign better foreign players to fill those slots.
As a result, the early part of the draft is very likely to be dominated by American players, with some very good international players slipping lower in the draft than their talent would merit. You will notice that there isn’t an international player taken in the first 20 picks of our Mock Draft. There could certainly be a team that takes an earlier flier on a talented international, but the odds are against it happening very often in the early part of the draft.
The Generation adidas class was announced with four players (Robbie Robinson, Jack Maher, Ryan Raposo, Henry Kessler) but sources tell SBI that Daryl Dike is expected to be signed a GA deal in time to be part of the draft. Sources also tell SBI that Virginia midfielder Joe Bell turned down a GA offer and will be signing with a team in Europe.
There are also some players included in the draft who may come as a surprise, such as New Hampshire junior Josh Bauer (eligible as a redshirt junior) and Loyola forward Brian Saramago (A New York Red Bulls academy product who will not be signing a homegrown player deal, and thus will be part of the draft).
With all that in mind, here is the first SBI MLS Mock Draft (Look for a final version on Wednesday):
($ = Generation adidas)
1. Inter Miami – ROBBIE ROBINSON, CLEMSON, FORWARD $
The expansion side can go Robinson or Maher, and choose the versatile Robinson. Daryl Dike’s late inclusion should make Miami consider him, but Diego Alonso’s team has had plenty of time to line up Robinson as the pick.
2. Nashville SC – Jack Maher, Indiana, Central Defender $
Landing the best defensive prospect in the draft is a solid first step for the expansion side. Maher is a 6-foot-2 central defender who won’t need to step in and play right away, but should eventually develop into a regular.
3. Inter Miami – Dylan Nealis, Georgetown, Right Back
Things get tricky at this pick, where Miami can field offers from teams looking to move up. Dike would be good value, but having already picked Robinson, you have to think Miami will focus on a defensive option and Nealis is arguably the most pro-ready defender in the draft.
4. Vancouver Whitecaps – Daryl Dike, Virginia, Striker $
The Whitecaps don’t have a big need for a striker like Dike, but his value is too high not to select him or trade the pick to a team that wants him. Vancouver will be hoping Maher or Nealis slide, but if they don’t, look for a deal here and move down where taking someone like Dayonn Harris would make sense.
5. Orlando City – Henry Kessler, Virginia, Centerback $
The Lions brought in young forwards last year in Benji Michel and Santiago Patino, this year adding some youth to the defense should be a priority and Kessler is a 6-foot-4 central defender who Oscar Pareja will look to mold into a starter.
6. New England Revolution – Miguel Berry – San Diego, Striker
Bruce Arena loves a big forward and Berry is the next-best pure striker prospect after Dike. The 6-foot-3 forward notched 17 goals in 2019.
7. Columbus Crew – Ryan Raposo, Syracuse, Winger $
After revamping the roster with some major acquisitions, Caleb Porter’s side can afford to bring in a long-term prospect like Raposo, a skilled and dynamic midfield option who won’t count against the salary cap.
8. Houston Dynamo – Garrett McLoughlin, SMU
With Mauro Manotas on the transfer block, some depth at forward wouldn’t be a bad move, and while the Dynamo could be a team tempted to move up for someone like Dike or Robinson, landing a forward like McLoughlin or Cal Jennings at this spot would fit in well with what Tab Ramos wants to do with his team.
9. Montreal Impact – Dayonn Harris, UConn, Winger
Thierry Henry is no stranger to knowing what speed can do for you in MLS, and Harris is a the best speed threat in this draft. He is also Canadian, and counts as a domestic player.
10. Chicago Fire – Cal Jennings, Central Florida, Forward
The Fire need everything, and the best option available at this pick is Jennings, a pure finisher with the kind of productivity that Raphael Wicky should be enticed by.