We are now just days away from the 2021 MLS Draft, and it’s time to expand SBI’s coverage of the draft by expanding our MLS Draft Big Board.
Major League Soccer unveiled its list of players eligible, including the first three members of the Generation adidas class. There were no surprises, with Philip Mayaka, Calvin Harris and Daniel Pereira signing GA deals.
The GA class should add two more names between now and draft day on Thursday, with sources telling SBI that Washington defender Ethan Bartlow and University of Virginia midfielder/fullback Brett Halsey are the leading candidates to secure GA deals (both are included in our new Big Board).
The MLS Draft list did feature some interesting developments, including a slew of players who have signed USL deals in 2020. Those players are eligible to be drafted, though there is a question about contractual complications due to their USL contracts. Several of those players are safe bets to be selected, led by Josh Penn and Michael DeShields.
The Draft list also included some redshirt juniors who are eligible for the draft, including University of Washington centerback Freddy Kleemann and Wake Forest goalkeeper Andrew Pannenberg.
The second edition of the SBI MLS Draft Big Board features 50 players and has been adjusted considerably from our initial Big Board. Player valuations continue to evolve as we take on more input from scouts and team officials from across MLS.
The 2021 MLS Draft will be highlighted by the plethora of fullback prospects and centerback prospects. The quality of attacking prospects is weaker than in past years, but there are some enticing prospects that should go in the top half of the first round.
Now, without further ado, here is the second edition of the SBI 2021 MLS Draft Big Board (look for a final version on Wednesday):
SBI 2021 MLS Draft Big Board
@- Generation adidas player
1. @ Philip Mayaka, Clemson, CM (BIO)
Box-to-box midfielder with the physical attributes and toughness to play as a rookie. Showed more attacking quality in 2020, but could be a valuable prospect for a deep-lying midfield role.
2. @ Calvin Harris, Wake Forest, F (BIO)
Dynamic English winger/forward, Harris is the most highly-coveted attacking prospect in the pool. You can argue he has more upside than Mayaka, and Josh Wolff will be tempted to add him to an Austin FC attack still light on pieces.
3. @ Daniel Pereira, Virginia Tech, CM (Bio)
Another box-to-box midfielder who is a bit more of an attacking threat than Mayaka. The Venezuelan-born midfielder made real strides defensively in his sophomore season, looking like a more complete player. Arguably the best passer in the draft, Pereira is a good connector and is young enough to still grow even more as a player.
4. @ Ethan Bartlow, Washington, CB (BIO)
Excellent passer and hard-nosed defender, Bartlow doesn’t have the eye-catching size at a generous 6-foot-1, but he is arguably the most pro-ready central defender in the bunch. Confident on the ball and has the ability to be a threat with his long passing.
5. Nabi Kibunguchy, UC-Davis, CB (BIO)
Boasting a combination of impressive athleticism, size and good passing skills, Kibunguchy has several teams eager to snatch him up early in the first round. His small-school pedigree is what keeps him from being higher on this list, but the consensus is he has the most upside of the elite central defenders on the board.
6. Ed Kizza, Pittsburgh, F (BIO)
Strong and physical forward who scored goals in bunches in college, but left school before his senior season, which could hurt his stock.
7. Josh Bauer, New Hampshire, CB (BIO)
Another well-rounded centerback, the 6-foot-2 defender is good in the air, a strong one-on-one defender and is a good passer. Very comparable to Bartlow and Kibunguchy, with some teams rating him the best central defender in the pool.
8. Kimarni Smith, Clemson, F (BIO)
English winger/forward who led the nation in goals in 2020, helping lead Clemson to the ACC title. A 6-foot-1 attacker who projects as a wide forward or winger, Smith is coveted by some teams, though his international status might keep some teams away.
9. @ BRET HALSEY, Virginia, CM/RB (BIO)
Poised, tenacious, and versatile, Halsey made major strides in 2020, which is what propelled him into the Generation adidas conversation. The American can play in central midfield, but is being projected as a right back on the pro level. He has the kind of mentality coaches love, though he might need a year to acclimate to the next level.
10. Aime Mabika, Kentucky, CB (BIO)
A 6-foot-6 central defender with the speed and power that has scouts dreaming about the possibilities, Mabika is more raw and not as technical as the elite central defenders in this pool. Feels like a bit of a project, but he has the tools to be a dominant defender.
11. Josh Penn, Indiana, W/F (BIO)
The former Indiana forward/winger spent 2020 with Indy 11 in the USL, though his current contract situation shouldn’t keep him from being taken in the top half of the first round. His quickness and dangerous left foot makes him an enticing option, as well as his status as one of the younger prospect in the pool.
12. David Egbo, Akron, F (BIO)
A big 6-foot-1 striker who boasts good technical quality on the ball, Egbo is a left-footed goal-scorer who doesn’t rely on his size and strength as much as you would expect. He lacks some physicality to his game, but with his touch and physical gifts, Egbo could be a special player if he leans more on his strength.
13. Josh Drack, Denver, LB (BIO)
A left winger and attacking threat through his college career, Drack is being projected as a left back and showed real potential at that position at the MLS/Sporting Kansas City Combine last Fall. One of several left-footed attackers projecting to convert to left back in this draft pool, Drack is arguably the best of that bunch.
14. Louis Perez, Central florida, CM (BIO)
Skillful central midfielder who has all the characteristics to be able to handle the jump to MLS, Perez has the work rate and technical quality to fit into a variety of systems. The French midfielder’s international status could hurt his stock.
15. Logan Panchot, Stanford, RB (BIO)
The former midfielder converted to right back and brings impressive technical skills to the position. He doesn’t boast the speed of some other fullback prospects, but he is a steady defender and his high-level passing skills are attractive to teams that emphasize possession.
16. AEDEN STANLEY, DUKE, LB (BIO)
A natural left back with some U.S. youth national team credentials, Stanley is a better defender than most of the fullback prospects in the pool. His contract with Sporting Kansas City’s USL affiliate won’t keep him from being drafted.
17. Talen Maples, SMU, CB (BIO)
A 6-foot defender/midfielder who can operate as a central defender or defensive midfielder. Projects more as a centerback, though he doesn’t boast the size of a prototypical central defender. His biggest asset is his excellent passing range and strength. All three Texas MLS clubs have him on their radar, as do teams that put a premium on sharp-passing defenders.
18. Justin McMaster, Wake Forest, F/M (BIO)
The former Philadelphia Union academy product suffered a torn ACL in November of 2019, and he endured a slow recovery when he returned in 2020. When healthy, he boasts an attractive combination of speed, power, deft passing touch and strong finishing ability. Can operate as a striker or wide forward.
19. Derek Dodson, Georgetown, F (BIO)
A well-rounded striker who can operate as a target forward or winger, Dodson boasts good size, speed and clean finishing. More well-suited to play as a wide forward, Dodson should benefit from the large international contingent in the draft pool, with his status as an American making him more appealing to teams not looking to spend international spots on draft picks.
20. Justin Malou, Clemson, CB (BIO)
Fullbacks are at a premium in this draft and Malou has the size, athleticism and good feet that make him appealing despite being an international player. The Senegalese fullback could potentially transition into central defense, and should be a first-round selection.