Having the first pick in most American professional sports drafts is certainly better than having the fourth. On the one hand, it usually means you had a bad season; on the other hand, it could mean you engineered a great trade to take that season's top incoming talent. The New England Revolution appear to have just done the latter, trading the number four pick and some allocation money to Toronto in exchange for the number one selection in Thursday's SuperDraft.
To say that this move caught me off guard would be an understatement. I never saw this coming. It was a recognized possibility that picks could be used as bargaining chips and that draft positions could be swapped, but I never expected the Revs to trade up in the draft. I would have thought it more likely that they make the trade as part of a package for another player.
There are only about three reasonable explanations for this sort of move, one of which is sort of a sub-explanation of another. The most obvious explanation is that they have identified their man in this draft, and they know he'd be gone by the time the fourth pick comes up. The second, slightly more nefarious possibility is that they've identified Carlos Alvarez as their man, and knowing that Chivas USA head coach Chelis wants him, they moved up ahead of Chivas to snag him. The final explanation is that another major trade is on the way involving this number one selection.
In looking at the first possibility, knowing that the Revs have tabbed a player they aren't sure will be available just a few picks later really narrows the search parameters for speculators like us. Top Drawer Soccer's latest Big Board points us to some of the possibilities here, along with our own knowledge that Heaps and Burns are looking for depth and quality up top and at fullback (stated in a recent conference call, and reported over several outlets).
Mikey Lopez - the Big Board has Lopez listed as the top prospect in the draft, and he's a Generation Adidas player with impressive chops. However, he's also a midfielder, and the Revs have a lot of really good midfielders. This would be a surprising pick to say the least.
Andrew Farrell - the number two prospect on the big board. Farrell is considered by some to be the most complete and MLS-ready prospect of all. Again, though, Farrell is mostly a midfield prospect, though he did see time in the back line this season. This gets us closer to what the Revs are looking for, but I'm still not buying it.
Eriq Zavaleta - Zavaleta runs in at the three spot, and if you ask me, this is the guy the Revs are targeting. Zavaleta is listed as a forward and a defender, and while I've been hearing that he's been evaluated as a defender at the combine, he was also tied for third in the country in goals scored with a great rate of well over a goal every other game. He's big, tough, and with a GA contract, he's free.
Walker Zimmerman - if the Revs are trying to go defense, Zimmerman is the guy. A beast at 6'3" and a solid 185 lbs., Zimmerman is the top defensive prospect in the draft and looks set to follow in the footsteps of guys like Austin Berry and Omar Gonzalez. He even has his own website! The knock here is that he's a central defender, and the real depth issue for the Revs is at fullback.
Wild cards in this analysis would be forwards DeShorn Brown and Kekuta Manneh. Brown, a GA signing, was a standout this year at UCF, scoring 13 goals in 16 games, and brings some serious size to his game at 6'2".
Manneh, on the other hand, is the dark horse in this year's GA class. The diminutive Gambian (he comes in at 5'9" 140 lbs.) isn't coming out of college, but he's coming off of a ridiculous Development Academy career and a 12-game stint with PDL club Austin Aztex, in which he scored 10 goals. The Gambian connection could pay off here for the Revs if they take a gamble on him, though by all indications he should be available later in the round if that's who the Revs are targeting. Both Brown and Manneh would take up international slots.
The second option is if the Revs are looking to snake Carlos Alvarez. This doesn't seem likely; Alvarez is a high-ranked prospect, but in midfield. The New England connection with UConn could be a motivating factor, but it just doesn't seem plausible. Still, knowing Chivas' stance on the player, the only way to acquire him would be to move up, and that's exactly what the Revs did.
Finally, the last possibility has the Revs dealing the number one pick for something else. I would postulate it would be part of a package for a player; which player that might be is anybody's guess. People knock the draft these days, but it still holds team-building value, and the chance to acquire the nation's top prospect is difficult to ignore. Even using the first pick to get some quality depth while still trading back into the later portion of the first round, or for another pick in the second, wouldn't be out of the question, and wouldn't be an awful use of the pick (depending on the player).
Either way, this was a move totally out of the blue. Let's hope the Revs make good use of it.