Nashville picked Jack Maher a year ago. Photo courtesy Nashville SC.
Nashville SC has added to its haul of draft slots, and we know some of the priorities that will guide the club’s drafting strategy. So who will Mike Jacobs and his staff take during tomorrow’s MLS SuperDraft? It is worth noting that the league added to its Generation Adidas class yesterday, so that – for lack of more delicate phrasing – increases the pool of worthwhile draft picks by two. The GA players will all be selected by the time NSC’s first pick comes at No. 20, but the “worthy seniors” group is bumped down by two nonetheless.
Let’s take a look at some of the guys that jump off the page from the pool of available players. 15 names of varying degrees of realism, quality, etc.
Aris Briggs, F, Georgia State. A rare Tennessee native in the SuperDraft, and it makes business sense for Nashville to use a late-round pick on dudes from the Volunteer State. Showing players from within the borders that there’s a professional opportunity pushes more of them to play beyond high school. It also helps strengthen NSC’s relationships with scholastic and club coaches within the state, improving the home-turf scouting network. While Briggs is slightly different because he hails from Memphis, not the middle portion of the state, Nashville used two later picks on Nashville natives in the 2020 SuperDraft, so there’s a bit of a precedent to look to here, as well. (Unless I’m missing someone, he’s the only Tennessean in the pool).
Nico Campuzano, GK, Pitt. The keeper for the best team in the country during the Fall season, Campuzano’s stats will be hard to separate from his team’s success, but given that NSC is looking for a No. 3 keeper at most, there’s a little time to evaluate and develop him. He has physical attributes (namely 6-2 height) slightly more in-line with what Nashville’s priorities have been in the past, as opposed to some of the shorter guys out there.
Matt Di Rosa, LB, Maryland. Nashville is likely in the market for left-sided fullbacks, and that’s a position at which college draftees can find some success, especially if they have a bit of runway to develop. Di Rosa is one of the higher-profile guys who could nonetheless slip to the range in which NSC will first pick.
David Egbo, F, Akron. While NSC is unlikely to seek long-term success out of strikers from the college ranks, Egbo could make sense to pick up nonetheless (should he be available). Picking players from Akron is generally a recipe for success (certainly it’s different in the post-Caleb Porter era, but: Darlington Nagbe, Deandre Yedlin, Zarek Valentin, many others), and he’s the highest-profile Zip.
Mitch Guitar, M, Wisconsin/Indy Eleven. I did no research about this dude, but his name is “Guitar.” I mean, come on.
Justin Malou, CB/RB, Clemson. A combo right fullback or centerback from a power program, he could slot in at multiple positions and help provide future depth as NSC’s key players begin to get up in age. One caveat is that he’s Senegalese and I’m not certain if he’d take an international slot.
Umar Farouk Osman, W, Michigan. An electrifying left-footed winger at the college level, he could be a lottery ticket at a player profile NSC has not been able to fill yet, and he also has experience at LB, a position where Nashville can draft to develop long-term depth. One intangible: he’s Ghanaian (Nashville has signed many players from Ghana), but I believe is a US citizen and wouldn’t take an international slot. Two bonus intangibles: “UFO” is a cool nickname, and it’s my blog so I get to pump up Michigan guys if I want.
Logan Panchot, RB, Stanford. Nashville can build RB depth with a player from one of the most consistent producers of MLS talent out of the college ranks, Stanford. He’s on the older side for the position – and frankly may not be available by the time Nashville picks – but a long-term all-star type of guy might not be necessary. Indeed, an RB who can approximate Eric Miller’s productivity as a backup RB could allow NSC to cut costs without sacrificing much on-field.
Andrew Pannenburg, GK, Wake Forest. One of the top statistical keepers among those who competed in the Fall. As with Campuzano, there’s a bit of statistical noise in his outstanding save percentage (.788), but he has the size advantage on the other players here, and is one of the younger options at the position, as well.
Josh Penn, M/F, Indiana/Indy Eleven. Penn slipped through the cracks in the first set of mock drafts I saw, so I thought I was gonna look real smart including him here. The second-youngest player in the pool (GA prospect Philip Mayaka is a week younger) makes sense, given that NSC doesn’t need a guy who’s a star right away. Despite that, he’s already a pro – signing a contract with Indy Eleven this Fall – and given that Nashville is likely to loan any draft picks to USL this Summer anyway, that won’t scare them away like it might other franchises. Letting him stick with Indy for 2021 while retaining his MLS rights for 2022 would be a solid bet. Penn also has the ability to play on the wing or slide inside as a 6/8/10 at the next level. There are also connections to the IU program through Mike Jacobs’s coaching history (and obviously the selection of Jack Maher last year).
Will Pulisic, GK, Duke. The Boys in Gold are looking for a No. 3 keeper, and while that may come from a vet, there’s a decent option in the SuperDraft. Pulisic’s numbers were not particularly good (.552 save%), but some of that was a pretty poor team in front of him this year. Despite the Blue Devils’ low quality this season, Mike Jacobs has an affinity for Duke (where he was an assistant earlier in his career). There’s also something to be said for the PR boost of taking a guy with an extremely famous cousin.
Jackson Ragen, CB, Michigan. A simply massive dude who may not be the most laterally-mobile (he’ll remind of a less-developed Forrest Lasso from the USL days). At 6-6, he has good physical potential at CB. Also it’s my blog so I get to pump up Michigan guys if I want.
Colin Shutler, GK, Virginia. Possibly the best-available keeper in the pool, he put up excellent numbers in 2019, and OK ones this season behind a much-weakened group of field players (you may have noticed former Hoos Daryl Dike and Henry Kessler excelling as rookies). Although he’s a slightly older guy – turning 23 early in the Summer – that’s less of an issue at the keeper position, which traditionally develops late and allows players longer careers.
Aedan Stanley, LB, Duke/SKCII. Stanley is one of the younger guys in the pool, just turning 21 last month. Despite that, he has a year of experience as a full-time pro, playing 16 games for Portland Timbers II as a left back (one of NSC’s positions of need!) last Summer. He also has a twofold connection to Mike Jacobs as a former Duke player and a guy who signed with SKCII (the club Jacobs helped launch) a week ago. Letting him develop in Peter Vermes’s system while retaining his MLS rights for future seasons – or creating the opportunity for the parent club to have to compensate Nashville if they want to promote him – fits with the needs.
Jahmali Waite, GK, Fairleigh Dickinson. One of the better keepers statistically in the pool, with a couple caveats: FDU does not exactly face a murderer’s row playing in the Northeastern Conference, and save percentage stats are inherently flawed, but pretty much all we have for NCAA players. Waite’s also a product of YSC Academy – better-known as Philadelphia Union’s Academy – and not only does YSC crank out good players, NSC can use a Union pick to put a Union Academy product into the pros.
Who do you think Nashville should draft? “Sound off” in the comments!