Did you know the 2014 MLS SuperDraft is quickly approaching? Well, it is. With a little less than three weeks away. Ives Galarcep has already posted his 2014 big board on his eponymous site, as has TopDrawerSoccer.com. Over here at SBNation, our own mock draft is coming up.
To get ready, we shot some questions over to TopDrawerSoccer's draft savant J.R. Eskilson to figure out this year's draft class and who they should be taking a look at come Jan. 16.
Once a Metro: How does this draft class compare to years past? I ask because the Red Bulls' only picks are in the second round (22nd overall and 34th overall). Will there still be quality players on the board by the time the Red Bulls' are on the clock?
Eskilson: This draft is definitely better than 2013. I think there are some players in this class that can make an impact immediately and others who could grow into a role - but that is the case with nearly any draft 2013 was just a weak class all around. The Generation adidas class in 2014 is shaping up to be solid, but there are no Darlington Nagbes in the pot (sans Andre Blake who could be the best goalkeeper to come out in some time).
OAM: With the way the roster looks right now, and the roster priorities Head Coach Mike Petke has set in interviews, I'd guess the Red Bulls would go for a fullback. Who should they be looking at specifically? Petke has said he's going to expect the fullbacks to get into the attack more in 2014.
Eskilson: Yikes. The options at outside back are rather limited in this class. An outside back who can get forward? Ben Sweat is maybe the best option among the players invited to the Combine. I believe UC Irvine defender Marco Franco will be a good pickup for whichever club gets him but he was not included in the Combine - he has played out of position for the past two seasons. Further off the radar, Connecticut's Michael Mercado and Fairleigh Dickinson's Nicholas Walker are interesting prospects from the Northeast. Walker is better getting forward than Mercado. Neither was invited to the combine. I also like Josh Philips from Gonzaga a little bit too. Not 100% convinced he is MLS quality, but I wouldn't be surprised to see him on a training camp roster.
OAM: I could see them maybe going for a winger, too. Will there be anyone worthwhile left in the second round? Who?
Eskilson: Alex Martinez is probably the most likely player to be around in the second round who could still make a difference for the Red Bulls. Martinez is the younger brother of RSL's Enzo Martinez. They are similar type of players - Alex prefers to stay on the wing more than Enzo though. Alex was great in 2012, but he was pretty average this season. It may have been a bad year just for NC State or ACC defenses learning how to defend him? Either way, I think he will be picked in the second or third round on draft day. He has some nice skills on the dribble and can whip in a cross. He is a bit small.
OAM: If it becomes a "take the best available" situation, where do the strengths lie in this year's draft class? Is there one particular position that's deeper than any other?
Eskilson: Center back is the position with the most depth in this draft. There are about eight CBs who could make an MLS roster - and there are even more out there that aren't far off the level but being overlooked for one reason or another. I think outside back is the weakest though. There isn't much there from the senior class and not many players coming up that could fill that role. A player like Akron's Robbie Derschang will be one to watch at the Combine as teams will likely want to see him at outside back instead of his normal spot on the wing.
OAM: The Red Bulls have done a pretty good job of finding talent in the second round lately (see: Tim Ream and Ryan Meara). Are there any sleepers we should be taking a closer look at?
Eskilson: That's a tough one. If a player like JJ Koval slips to the second round, he'd be the first one for me. He reminds me of Ream and Meara - not from any playing style or technique - but he is a hard worker who just has the cut of a MLS player. There is also a long list of players who are injured who could still make a mark at the pro level - Peter Schmetz being the main one.