The 2012 MLS Draft isn't going to boast the long-term upside of last year's draft, and it may not produce the impact players of the 2010 draft (which included the likes of Danny Mwanga, Teal Bunbury and Tim Ream), but the upcoming draft does offer a plethora of attacking players who should help several teams boost their struggling offenses.
It's tough to tell just how much star power the 2012 draft will have, what with top prospects Darren Mattocks, Kelyn Rowe and Billy Schuler all attracting interest from overseas, but there should be enough depth in this group, particularly at forward and attacking midfielder, to make the first round a very interesting scene for teams looking to trade up and down in search of help.
Toronto FC will be in a very good position to influence matters at the draft as the only team holding two first-round picks, and given TFC director of player development Paul Mariner's past success in drafting with the New England Revolution, Toronto stand a good bet of coming away with some helpful options.
A key factor in determining just how the MLS Draft will play out is how the Generation adidas class shapes up. With most GA classes consisting of between six-to-eight players, our projected first round includes the eight players we see landing Generation adidas deals at the moment.
It should be noted that, at press time, Mattocks was looking like a good possibility to head to Europe. If he were to bolt, Notre Dame midfielder Dillon Powers, South Florida striker Dom Dwyer and UCSB forwards Sam Garza and David Opoku would be among the players standing the best chances of replacing him in the Generation adidas class.
How the GA class pans out, and how players do at next month's MLS Combine will ultimately provide the final steps in determining just where players are ultimately valued. Our Mock Draft is based on team needs as well as where players are currently valued by scouts in MLS.
With that in mind, here is how we see the first round of the 2012 MLS Draft shaking out in January:
FOX SOCCER 2012 MLS MOCK DRAFT
1. Montreal Impact
Darren Mattocks, Forward, Akron
6'0", 185 pounds, Sophomore
22 games, 22 goals, 4 assists
The Impact need quality forwards, and Mattocks is the kind of exciting striker prospect who could help Jesse Marsch's attack. The big question, at this point, is whether MLS will make Mattocks an offer that keeps him from bolting to Europe. If Mattocks isn't available, the Impact would have little choice but to grab Duke star Andrew Wenger. That's assuming they don't trade the pick.
2. Vancouver Whitecaps
Andrew Wenger, Defender/Midfielder, Duke
6'0", 185 pounds, Junior
22 games, 17 goals, 8 assists
The Whitecaps had the long-term future of the club in mind when they made Omar Salgado the top pick in the 2011 draft. This time around, Vancouver grabs a player who could help right away. Whether he is deployed as a central defender, defensive midfielder, or even in a right wing role, Wenger should contribute right away to whichever team lands him.
3. New England Revolution
Billy Schuler, Forward/Midfielder, North Carolina
5'11", 170 pounds, Junior
25 games, 16 goals, 5 assists
The Revs have a track record of doing well drafting ACC players, and Schuler could be the next in line. A quick and skillful forward, Schuler could help provide the type of attacking boost New England badly needs.
4. Toronto FC
Nick DeLeon, Midfield, Louisville
5'10", 170 pounds, Senior
22 games, 6 goals, 6 assists
TFC has been looking for an attacking midfielder since Dwayne De Rosario left town, and as good as some of the options are here, Toronto will turn to Louisville playmaker DeLeon, considered by many to be the most talented senior in the draft. Boasting an ability to go at defenders as well as create chances for teammates, DeLeon won't make it too far past this pick.
5. Chivas USA
Kelyn Rowe, Midfielder, UCLA
5'8", 150 pounds, Sophomore
24 games, 6 goals, 10 assists
The Goats are in need of a playmaker, and as much as replacing a forward like Justin Braun is also important, Robin Fraser can't pass on a playmaker like Rowe. With his LA roots and impressive skill set, Rowe could make the Goats forget passing on Benny Feilhaber and Freddy Adu last summer.
6. San Jose Earthquakes
Luis Silva, Midfielder, UCSB
5'11", 163 pounds, Senior
22 games, 17 goals, 10 assists
The Earthquakes endured a nightmare 2011 season and head into 2012 with plenty of areas of need. While they can certainly use some help on the left wing and some forward depth, finding an attacking midfield option is a priority. Frank Yallop can go with Silva or Enzo Martinez, and while some would grab Martinez, Yallop finds it difficult to pass on Silva's goal-scoring ability from midfield.
7. D.C. United
Enzo Martinez, Midfielder, North Carolina
5'7", 145 pounds, Junior
26 games, 9 goals, 11 assists
If you're wondering why D.C. would grab a playmaker like Martinez with reigning MLS MVP Dwayne DeRosario already in the fold, it's pretty simple. DeRosario did his best work as a second forward, and Martinez is the type of pure attacking midfielder who could only make DeRosario better. If Martinez lasts this long, there's no way D.C. passes.
Matt Hedges, Defender, North Carolina
6'4", 185 pounds, Senior
26 games, 6 goals, 1 assist
The Timbers need to get better defensively, and while finding stronger fullback options is a priority, Portland can't pass on Hedges, the best pure defender in the draft. A skillful centerback who is also dominant in the air, Hedges could battle for playing time right away.
9. Chicago Fire
Casey Townsend, Forward, Maryland
5'11", 161 pounds, Senior
21 games, 17 goals, 2 assists
The Fire scored big with the addition of Dominic Oduro at forward in 2011, but their forward stable still isn't as strong as it needs to be, and adding a player like Townsend can only give Frank Klopas more options up top. A skillful finisher with the quickness to create his own chances, Townsend should be one of the first forwards off the board.
10. Columbus Crew
Brian Span, Forward/Winger, Virginia
6'3", 180 pounds, Sophomore
21 games, 7 goals, 5 assists
The Columbus Crew can use some attacking punch in midfield, and with Dilly Duka capable of playing centrally, and Eddie Gaven versatile enough to move around, the Crew will be hard-pressed to pass on a player with Span's upside. Boasting freakish athleticism and a combination of size and speed that scouts dream about, Span could wind up going much higher with an impressive showing at the MLS Combine.
11. FC Dallas
Chandler Hoffman, Forward, UCLA
6'0", 160 pounds, Junior
24 games, 18 goals, 6 assists
It is no secret just how badly FC Dallas needed forward help in 2011, and that need has only grown during an offseason that saw the team lose Maicon Santos. Enter Hoffman, arguably the best striker in college soccer during the second half of the recent college season. Hoffman is a skilled finisher - a technically gifted striker who can set up teammates and put himself into good positions to score.
12. Toronto FC
Andrew Jean-Baptiste, Defender, Connecticut
6'2", 205 pounds, Sophomore
25 games, 2 goals, 1 assist
TFC's need for central defense help is well-chronicled, and while Jean-Baptiste is far from the finished product, he is the type of high-upside prospect Toronto will find difficult to pass on. Though he isn't as technically skilled as some other defenders in the pool, he's young, boasts impressive size and athleticism and can be coached. TFC could also deal this pick for some veteran defensive help.
13. Philadelphia Union
Tony Cascio, Midfielder, Connecticut
5'11", 185 pounds, Senior
25 games, 5 goals, 8 assists
With Justin Mapp gone and Keon Daniel's whereabouts still unclear, Peter Nowak could use some depth on the wing, and Cascio is the best pure winger in the draft. Though his senior season wasn't as good as his junior, Cascio still impressed scouts with his athleticism, pace and ability to go at people.
14. Colorado Rapids
Aaron Maund, Defender, Notre Dame
6'1", 185 pounts, Senior
18 games, 0 goals, 2 assists
The Rapids can use some depth in a variety of spots, but centerback is a key area of need. Maund is the type of big and athletic centerback who can help right away. A former U.S. Under-20 fullback, Maund should be one of the first defenders off the board in January's draft.
15. Seattle Sounders
Colin Rolfe, Forward, Louisville
6'0", 175 pounds, Senior
23 games, 9 goals, 10 assists
Having lost forward depth with the departure of Nate Jaqua, the Sounders will be happy to land a dangerous striker in Rolfe, who didn't have the kind of senior season expected of him, but who still has the tools to contribute right away.
16. Sporting Kansas City
Austin Berry, Defender, Louisville
6'2", 180 pounds, Senior
23 games, 1 goal, 2 assists
Sporting can use some defensive depth, and Berry is just the kind of player Vermes likes. Disciplined, strong and intelligent, Berry might lack in the quickness department, but he is strong in the air and could challenge for minutes in year one.
17. Real Salt Lake
Mykell Bates, Defender, Santa Clara
5'9", 172 pounds, Senior
15 games, 4 goals, 0 assists
Having lost Robbie Russell in the off-season, RSL can use some fullback depth and find a quality option in Bates, a former US Under-17 national team captain and strong right back. While hasn't gotten as much attention as some other fullbacks in the college game, Bates has all the tools to contribute right away, not that he will have to on a team as strong as RSL.
18. Houston Dynamo
Calum Mallace, Midfielder, Marquette
16 games, 3 goals, 6 assists
The Dynamo have had success with Scottish-born midfielders before and look to duplicate that success here in grabbing Mallace, a highly-regarded two-way central midfielder. There are some questions about him having the engine for the pro game, but Kinnear knows talent and will see the qualities that made Mallace Big East Midfielder of the Year in 2011.
19. LA Galaxy
Hunter Jumper, Defense, Virginia
6'2", 175 pounds, Senior
17 games, 2 goals, 4 assists
The Galaxy just loaded up on veteran defensive depth in the MLS re-entry draft, but one area they didn't address is depth at left back. Todd Dunivant is an ironman for LA, but with multiple competitions looming, Jumper is just the kind of left back who can come in and provide cover. Arguably the best left-sided player in the draft, Jumper could go even higher.