Positional Top Fives
1. Jane Campbell – Stanford
2. Kailen Sheridan – Clemson
3. Ashton McKeown – Long Beach State
4. Rachel Boaz – BYU
5. Diana Poulin – Saint John’s (NY)
1. Kadeisha Buchanan – West Virginia
2. Kayla Mills – USC
3. Maddie Bauer – Stanford
4. Rebecca Quinn – Duke
5. Christina Gibbons – Duke
1. Rose Lavelle – Wisconsin
2. Morgan Andrews – USC
3. Alexis Shaffer – Virginia
4. Ashley Lawrence – West Virginia
5. Nickolette Driesse – Penn State
1. Savannah Jordan – Florida
2. Rachel Hill – UConn
3. McKenzie Meehan – Boston College
4. Murielle Tiernan – Virginia Tech
5. Toni Payne – Duke
Overall Top 100
1. Kadeisha Buchanan – D (CB) – West Virginia
If there’s a can’t miss prospect in this loaded draft class, it feels like that’s Buchanan, who has already proven her bonafides at the highest level of play, most notably at the Women’s World Cup last Summer for Canada. Buchanan has already shown the potential to be one of her nation’s best ever and is already the rock at the heart of the defense despite still being just twenty years old. Big things had already been predicted for Buchanan upon her arrival at West Virginia before the 2013 season, and she more than lived up to those expectations, being named the Big 12 Defender of the Year and a second team All-American as a rookie. It’s been onward and upward ever since then for the Canadian, who has added two more Big 12 Defensive POTY awards and two more All-America nods. About the only thing missing from the shelf at an individual level for Buchanan is the Hermann Trophy, though that may be a bit harder to come by. You could make an argument that Buchanan is one of the finest defenders at collegiate level of the past decade, and she’s showed that form at international level as well, being named 2015 Women’s World Cup Best Young Player. Buchanan’s not a giant at center-back, but she is strong as an ox and quick as well, traits she’s displayed at all levels thus far. Some may wonder if Buchanan’s aggression may need to be tamped down a bit at professional level, but it’s probably not going to scare any suitors off come January’s draft. Center-backs aren’t popular picks at #1 at pro level, but if someone out there needs help on the backline, they’d be foolish to overlook Buchanan given her impressive body of work thus far.
2. Rose Lavelle – MF (AMC) – Wisconsin
On the precipice of a breakthrough at senior international level, Lavelle looks to be a dead certainty to be one of the top two picks in January’s draft, and could end up going #1 overall depending on team need. While Lavelle was a highly touted player coming into Wisconsin, few probably envisioned her rising to this level after four seasons in the college ranks. But Lavelle was an instant star for the Badgers, winning Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors and raking in awards by the bucketful since at an individual level, including a pair of All-America honors her past two seasons in Madison. Some might argue that Lavelle’s high volume shooting can be problematic at times, but given the dearth of weapons around Lavelle at times, it’s a lot more understandable. That was largely the case last year, when Lavelle notched a career high in goals with seven and a career low in assists with three as her teammates collectively couldn’t hit water if they fell out of a boat. Lavelle impresses just as much with her ability to keep the game simple with short passes as she does with her runs with the ball from midfield. It’s those runs with the ball at warp speed that captivate the eye and make the quick footed Lavelle such a threat to opposing defenses. It’s highly unlikely that a player of even Lavelle’s calibre will be able to carry the likes of Wisconsin to the College Cup this season, but she’ll still likely be a joy to watch as she tries her hardest to defy those odds. But most are probably starving for the opportunity to see Lavelle in an offense with superior players to see what the midfield schemer can really do.
The active scoring leader in DI going into 2016 has been an unholy terror with the ball at her feet for three seasons for the Gators. Jordan made the best first impression possible as a freshman, scoring twenty-two goals for Florida, one of the best hauls in history at this level for a rookie. It’s been a steady deluge of goals ever since for Jordan, who topped nineteen goals as a sophomore with last season’s twenty-four goals and seven assists. On an analytics basis, Jordan’s numbers last season were astonishing, with the Florida forward needing just 4.96 shots per goal and putting over 55% of those shots on target. Eleven goals against RPI Top 50 teams and fourteen against RPI Top 100 teams were both #1 in the nation. While Jordan’s not lightning quick, she has enough of a burst and accompanying strength to separate from most opposing defenders. And if Jordan gets a sight of goal within eighteen yards, it’s almost assured that she’s going to be celebrating a goal. If the team that drafts her doesn’t try to get cute and do something daft like put her out on the wing, Jordan is going to be a dangerous scoring presence at the next level for years to come.
4. Rachel Hill – F (CF) – UConn
With UConn no longer being a giant in the sport, there’s perhaps a sense that Hill is being overlooked going into the final season of an otherwise glittering collegiate career. A salve for an offense that had been struggling for a true star for years, Hill has been one of the nation’s most lethal strikers for three seasons now and should continue to obliterate defenses as a senior in 2016. Hill announced her presence on the national scene with thirteen goals as a rookie, using that season as a springboard to making the U.S. U20 team at the 2014 U20 World Cup. That didn’t exactly work out that well, but Hill brutalized collegiate defenses for sixteen goals upon her return. She hit that total once more as a junior, though her shots per goal mark was a little bit worse, having needed eighty-eight shots for that return. Hill put 60.2% of her shots on frame though, a staggering number, even for a player of her calibre. Hill’s eleven goals against RPI Top 100 teams is second best in this class, with the forward having also netted six against RPI Top 50 teams in 2015. The Huskies could be a dark horse to get to Cary and the College Cup considering their firepower this season, and Hill could find herself as a Hermann Trophy contender if they get there. Regardless, Hill is one of this class’ elite players and should be gone by the end of the first round.
5. Kayla Mills – D (RB, LB) – USC
I’d make an argument that Mills might be the best full-back prospect to come out of the college ranks in the NWSL era. The Trojan defender was recruited as an attacker before being converted to a full-back and has taken to the role exceedingly well, winning second team All-America honors as well as Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year honors, a big accomplishment considering the level of defensive talent in the league. Mills more than earned it, terrorizing teams from her right-back position as she tied for the team lead with six assists while also scoring twice. Mills wasn’t afraid to let fly, shooting forty-eight times on the year, though it’s safe to say she won’t be that involved in front of goal as a professional if she stays at full-back. Considering Mills scored four times and had seven assists in a more offensive role as a rookie, a pro role at wide defender isn’t set in stone, though given her effectiveness at right-back for USC, it’s hard to see why she should move back into the attack unless it’s in a super sub role. Mills’ thunderous forays up the flank have been commonplace in L.A. the past few seasons and should have her on the radar for the USWNT sooner rather than later. As a senior on one of the nation’s best defenses this upcoming season, Mills could lock in a spot in the first round of the 2017 draft with a big campaign.