The MLS Superdraft is always a mystery outside of the first handful of picks. While most of the major American sports are analyzed from grade school on up, soccer remains more art than science when it comes to evaluating young talent. So, for those of us focused on the Portland Timbers, figuring out who might still be around to take with the No. 20 pick in the draft can be a bit of a challenge.
Thankfully there are those who spend a little bit more time on the college game than we can and they share that knowledge with us through the wonders of the mock draft. There are always a handful floating around before the Superdraft, but the two most consistent are the entries from Soccer by Ives and Top Drawer Soccer.
Both mock drafts include some projected Generation Adidas players, but neither seem to think that one will fall to the Timbers all the way down at No. 20. They do, however, seem to think that the Timbers will look to their former U-23s for a good value in the first round of this year's draft.
Soccer By Ives
Todd Wharton, Defensive Midfielder, Virginia
The Timbers could use a young goalkeeper, and Callum Irving is an intriguing prospect here, but short of trading up for an Andrew Tarbell, we can see Portland looking for some more central midfield depth. Last year’s top pick, Nick Besler is still around, but we can see the Timbers taking Wharton, who impressed with the Timbers Under-23 team last summer.
Wharton did more than just impress with the U-23s, he made the PDL All-League Team at the end of the season. The U-23s' defense was among the best in the league last season and Wharton was a large part of that.
Unfortunately, Wharton plays a position that is already deep for the Timbers. Playing behind Diego Chara, Ben Zemanski, Jack Jewsbury, George Fochive, and Nick Besler (who was given a new contract this offseason), not only would Wharton struggle to find time with the first team, he might just struggle to find time with T2.
Top Drawer Soccer
Dennis Castillo, Defender, VCU
VCU's Dave Giffard is a product of Caleb Porter's Akron coaching tree, so expect Castillo to be well-versed in the way the Timbers like to play their defenders. Plus, he's spent time with the Timbers U23 team, making this fit seamless. Castillo can slot in as a center back or as a right-sided defender.
Like Wharton, Castillo made the PDL All-League Team at the end of the 2015 season and, beyond that, was named the PDL Defensive Player of the Year. While Wharton's contributions to the midfield were important for the side, Castillo was the anchor for the U-23s' back line and showed the same for VCU, being named the 2015 Atlantic 10 Conference's Defensive Player of the Year.
Castillo could prove to be an interesting fit for the Timbers, competing with the likes of Taylor Peay and Anthony Manning for time with T2 once Jamaican center back Rennico Clark makes his return from the ACL tear that sidelined him late last season.
Both of these picks, as late in the first round as they are, seem like a bit of a reach, having the Timbers go with familiarity over the best possible player. Somewhat tellingly, when the SBI mock draft reaches into the second round, they have Castillo going 38th to the New York Red Bulls.
There is still plenty of time before the draft and there are plenty of factors to be considered for the Timbers' picks, so keep an eye out and see how these projections change over time.