Ahead of the 2019 MLS SuperDraft on Friday, I wanted to take a look back at the last few drafts and what the Colorado Rapids got from them. When trying to decide how far back to go, I went with the last five drafts. Not only is five a nice round number, but 2014 represents the first draft after the Oscar Pareja era, where the Rapids reduced their focus on young players (2013 was the draft that brought us Deshorn Brown and Dillon Powers). It’s also the point where the league moved to the 4-round format that they’re still using this year.
For each of the drafts I’m going to look at five things:
· The Rapids natural first round pick, which they’ve never kept in this time period
· The Rapids actual first round pick
· The Rapids best pick of the draft
· Who the Rapids missed out on, either by trading down or not taking them at their pick
· The best overall pick in the draft
Natural pick: 11th
Actual pick: 12th – D Marlon Hairston (Traded down with NE to get an extra pick)
Best Pick: Hairston (Jared Watts was one of our 2nd round picks as well)
Missed: F Patrick Mullins was taken by New England in front of us. This was also the year that Pareja defected to Dallas with our draft info, taking F Tesho Akindele with the 6th pick.
Best overall: GK Andre Blake, taken by Philly with the first pick. D Steve Birnbaum and D Eric Miller were also in the top 5 picks.
Natural pick: 5th
Actual pick: 14th – D Axel Sjoberg (Traded the 5th pick for Danny Mwanga, traded Chris Klute and a pick for the 14th pick)
Best pick: Sjoberg (Dominique Badji was taken in the 4th round this year as well)
Missed: GK Alex Bono, D Matt Polster, and D Tim Parker all went between the 5th and 14th picks. Also of note, Cristian Roldan went to Seattle two picks after Sjoberg.
Best overall: F Cyle Larin, taken by Orlando with the first pick.
Natural pick: 2nd
Actual pick: 16th – M Emmanuel Appiah (traded the 2nd pick for Zach Pfeffer, traded money and picks to Chicago for the 16th pick
Best pick: D Dennis Castillo in the 2nd round
Missed: D Keegan Rosenberry went 3rd
Best overall: M Jack Harrison, taken by Chicago with the first pick
Note: This was the first draft where we started seeing teams pass on draft picks in the late rounds.
Natural pick: 20th
Actual pick: 15th – M Sam Hamilton (Traded 20th pick to NE in 2016 for Jermaine Jones, traded Jermaine Jones to LA in 2017 for the 15th pick)
Best pick: Hamilton (the only player the Rapids drafted this year to make the team)
Missed: Nobody since we traded up and there wasn’t much talent later in the draft
Best overall: F Jeremey Ebobisse – Taken by Portland with the 4th pick
Natural pick: 4th
Actual pick: 25th – F Alan Winn (Traded our first round pick to Montreal for Eric Miller back in 2016)
Best pick: F Niki Jackson (taken in the 4th round and the only player the Rapids drafted this year to make the team)
Missed: F Chris Mueller went 6th
Best overall: Mueller - Taken by Orlando
As you can see, the value of the draft has been dropping quickly over the last five years. While Andre Blake and Cyle Larin are great signings even for today’s MLS, the last couple of drafts have only produced solid MLS players like Mueller and Ebobisse.
The Rapids have signed 4, 2, 3, 1, and 1 players from their draft class over the last five years. Right now Hairston, Sjoberg, and Jackson are the only players on the Rapids roster that were drafted by the team, though Acosta is here due to trading Badji, who was also a draft pick. The general feeling around the draft at this point is that if you don’t have a top-five pick it’s a crapshoot and the results from the last five years seem to back that up. Roldan has been the only major impact player to come from outside the top five or so of recent drafts.
So where does that leave the Rapids this year? We traded the 4th pick in the draft to Dallas as part of the Acosta/Badji trade and got their 15th pick in exchange. I don’t know about you but I’d rather have Acosta and the 15th pick than not have Acosta and hope to find a quality player with the 4th pick. Beyond that, we have the 28th, 42nd, and 76th picks (for now at least). That’s two in the 2nd round and one in the 4th round. Our best-case scenario is probably finding a diamond in the rough like Jackson. We should not expect to pick up an MLS-ready player on Friday.