NWSL – 2017 Draft Class Top 50 Ranking – Buchanan Muscles Her Way To #1

Positional Rankings

GK

1. Jane Campbell – Stanford
2. Kailen Sheridan – Clemson
3. Tarah Hobbs – Minnesota
4. Hannah Seabert – Pepperdine
5. Diana Poulin – Saint John’s (NY)

DEF

1. Kadeisha Buchanan – West Virginia
2. Rebecca Quinn – Duke
3. Maddie Bauer – Stanford
4. Kayla Mills – USC
5. Stephanie Amack – Stanford

MF

1. Rose Lavelle – Wisconsin
2. Morgan Andrews – USC
3. Emma Fletcher – Cal
4. Allison Wetherington – Portland
5. Ashley Lawrence – West Virginia

FW

1. Savannah Jordan – Florida
2. Murielle Tiernan – Virginia Tech
3. Rachel Hill – UConn
4. McKenzie Meehan – Boston College
5. Hayley Dowd – Boston College

Overall Top 50

1. Kadeisha Buchanan – D (CB) – West Virginia

The big question isn’t whether Buchanan is this class’ best prospect, it’s rather if she’ll be in this draft at all. Foreign professional teams have already reportedly shown interest, and her profile will only rise higher with a good showing this Summer. Buchanan also may be allocated by Canada right off the bat, meaning she may be assigned to a team rather than be drafted by one. There’s little question that Buchanan could probably start for an NWSL side right now. She’s got an uncanny combination of brute strength and defensive skill that’s already made her one of the world’s most promising center-backs. There are probably questions as to how her no-holds barred style will hold up with referees at the next level, but those concerns are minute compared to the talent Buchanan brings to the table.

2. Rose Lavelle – MF (AMC) – Wisconsin

The diminutive playmaker has spent two seasons knifing through Big Ten defenses with the Badgers and has evolved from being an intriguing prospect to one of the very best young players in the U.S. Lavelle was one of the few players to come out of last season’s U20 World Cup with her reputation enhanced following the U.S.’ misadventures in Canada and starred again in college play with Wisconsin, racking up ten assists as the Badgers impressed. A dribbling wizard with great vision and an often incisive touch in front of goal, there are few more dangerous in DI with the ball at her feet. Her usage rates were pretty poor last year though, with just two goals on sixty-nine shots, and it’ll be interesting to see how those numbers develop with Cara Walls gone. The sky’s the limit for Lavelle, who has a real shot at being the #1 overall pick in 2017.

3. Jane Campbell – GK – Stanford

Some were likely questioning whether Campbell was worth the hype after an uneven freshman season in Palo Alto where she replaced Emily Oliver midseason. A year on, and it looks like Campbell is back on track for stardom after a big step forward in her development with the Card. An imposing figure in goal with a commanding presence in her area, Campbell also showed off her shot stopping ability in full effect many times in 2014, including one of the saves of the season against Florida in the regular season. With a defense so young in front of her, odds are Campbell will only get better in the next two seasons as the backline further gels as a unit. Campbell’s the best keeper in this class by some distance and has the potential to be the best GK prospect since AD Franch.

4. Savannah Jordan – F (CF) – Florida

Gators’ #9 is strong as an ox leading the line, due in no small part to a Taekwondo background which no doubt comes in handy against the hacking she’s on the receiving end of in the SEC. Jordan was another of the U.S. U20 team to fail to really engage in 2014’s tournament, being subbed off at the half in two group stage matches and only getting in in extra time in the North Korea quarterfinal shootout defeat. At club level, Jordan has simply destroyed opposing defenses, with forty-one goals in two seasons. That included seven against RPI Top 50 teams and eleven against RPI Top 100 teams last season, both best in this draft class. Jordan’s usage rates probably could do with improving a bit, but it’s a slight quibble considering her scoring record. Odds on to be the first forward off the board in January of 2017.

5. Murielle Tiernan – F (CF) – Virginia Tech

If Tiernan played in Chapel Hill, you’d probably be drowning in hype about her goalscoring prowess by this point. While Tiernan’s numbers between her freshman season and sophomore season look pretty close given a rough glance, her efficiency numbers rose markedly, and the big forward also did a number on top teams, with six goals against RPI Top 50 teams and ten goals against RPI Top 100 clubs. Expectations for the Hokies are going to be high going into 2015, and if Tiernan can help fire the ACC side back to the College Cup, the Hermann Trophy could come calling. At any rate, Tiernan could maneuver herself into being the top forward taken in this class, though Savannah Jordan will likely come into it with more plaudits. Teams looking for a tough target forward should take a hard look at the Ashbury native come 2017.

6. Rachel Hill – F (CF) – UConn

Late bloomer came on like a hurricane to make the U.S. U20 Women’s World Cup squad though she didn’t particularly see extensive action during that disastrous tournament. Has put up some big numbers in two seasons with the Huskies in front of goal and already has nine game winning goals. Efficiency rates are probably a tick behind the cream of the crop in this class, but it’s hard to argue with her work against top teams last season, including ten goals against RPI Top 100 sides. A bit smallish for a center-forward at the next level but could operate a bit wider with little problem. Capable of some spectacular goals, as she’s shown at club and youth international level. If she can bring some more silverware to Storrs and help prod the club deeper into the NCAA Tournament, a spot in the first round of the draft could await.

7. Rebecca Quinn – D (CB), MF (CM) – Duke

One of the last cuts for Canada ahead of this year’s WWC, this will probably be the last major international competition Quinn misses out for for some time. The Duke center-back has already gotten her feet wet at full international level and appears to be a part of the nation’s center-back pairing of the future with Kadeisha Buchanan. College career got off to a stop start existence after an injury hit rookie season, but Quinn was everpresent in the lineup upon her U20 WWC return last year. Quinn also played in a more advanced role as a central midfielder, and it’ll be interesting to see if she continues there with Duke or slides back to defense. Has a little offensive spark, so a full-time move to midfield isn’t out of the question, and versatility would only make her more valuable to club and country.

8. Maddie Bauer – D (CB) – Stanford

Why Bauer wasn’t on the U.S. U20 team that flamed out in spectacular fashion last year will probably remain one of the great mysteries of our time in terms of youth international soccer decisions. It’s even more puzzling when you consider the consistently outstanding form Bauer has shown in two seasons with Stanford, helping the Card stand out as one of the nation’s very best defenses from her spot at center-back. Is already a big time leader despite just two seasons of collegiate experience. Good for the occasional assist, as you’d expect from a Stanford player but isn’t going to be a huge threat for set piece goals. Almost a mortal lock to be the first American defender off the board.

9. Morgan Andrews – MF (MC, AMC) – USC

Another polarizing prospect in this class. Appeared to have the world at her feet after a glittering youth career and tremendous first season with Notre Dame in 2013, netting seven goals, five assists, and a boatload of personal awards. And then 2014 happened. There was the disappointing showing in U20 WWC qualifying which led to her being dropped from the team for the competition proper, followed by an uneven sophomore campaign under a new coach that led to her being benched for a good chunk of winning time in the NCAA Tournament Sweet Sixteen loss. It was hardly a surprise that Andrews took off after the season, but the pressure is definitely on her to produce at her new home, as she’ll have plenty of talent around her on an ambitious squad. A great season will again have people talking about her as a Top Five pick, but it’s far from a certainty.

10. McKenzie Meehan – FW (CF), MF (AMC) – Boston College

Meehan would probably be in the discussion for the top five of the 2016 NWSL Draft, but as fate and a falling mirror would have it, the Eagles’ soaring scorer will have to wait another year after missing last season with an Achilles’ injury. Meehan had been set to play at the U20 World Cup until her injury and perhaps could have changed the U.S.’ fortunes considering her scoring form with BC in 2013. She netted twenty goals on just seventy-nine shots, a ridiculously efficient number, especially in a cutthroat league like the ACC. Obviously, the question is if she’s still the same player before her injury. If she is, there’s little reason to believe Meehan can’t climb higher on this board and be a first round pick for some side in 2017.

11. Emma Fletcher – MF (AMC, MC, AMR) – Cal

One of the golden children of Canadian football faces a crossroads season after a disappointing 2014 campaign with LSU. Already involved in a tug of war between New Zealand and Canada for her international allegiance, Fletcher has since made an impact as a key component in the latter’s U20 team, including at the U20 World Cup last year. But Fletcher was never the same upon her return to LSU, seeing her assist total drop to two after a whopping twelve assists as a rookie. At her best, Fletcher is a dynamic playmaker that can control the game and make an offense tick. Reasonably, you could’ve argued Fletcher suffered from fatigue and a lack of comparable talent around her last season. But now at a strong Cal side and without international obligations to worry about, better will be expected.

12. Allison Wetherington – MF (RM, AMC) – Portland

Georgia native has been one of the last remaining marks of true quality for the Pilots after an up and down few seasons. Was one of the nation’s most highly regarded recruits in 2013 and lived up to the hype with a WCC Freshman of the Year performance, netting four goals and six assists. Offensive numbers didn’t quite improve last year, but Wetherington’s game still developed impressively considering she was asked to lead a team that had suffered massive offseason losses that had hurt the Pilots’ depth. Probably too small to play in the middle, Wetherington is none the less a great fit out wide on the flanks in midfield. Stock could improve markedly with a more gelled team in 2015.

13. Hayley Dowd – F (CF) – Boston College

A big hitter up front who made a seismic breakthrough as a sophomore for the Eagles. Dowd had already come into BC with a massive reputation as a one of the nation’s top young prospects but had to be content with a role as a super sub as a rookie behind some powerful attacking talent but still delivered a tantalizing glimpse of what was to come with five goals and four assists. In the starting lineup last season full-time and with a role as the club’s offensive spearhead now in her grasp, Dowd responded with fourteen goals, twice that of anyone else on the Eagles. Dowd won’t have Stephanie McCaffrey to take defensive attention away, but McKenzie Meehan does return, while Dowd herself will be looking to build upon solid efficiency numbers and a good record against top teams.

14. Ashley Lawrence – MF (AMC), F (CF) – West Virginia

Canadian international set to feature at the WWC for the hosts and has become a consistent representative at international level. Has pulled the strings for two seasons as an attacking midfielder, though Lawrence seems to be much more of a combo #10 than a pure playmaker. Has the size to play as a potential center-forward at the next level, but her efficiency rates are remarkably poor, meaning she’ll probably have to cut her teeth in an attacking midfield role as a professional. Continued involvement with Canadian WNT should help her development along, and this ranking may be moot at any rate if Canada decides to allocate her instead of putting her through the draft process.

15. Toni Payne – MF (AML), F (LF, CF) – Duke

It was left up to Payne to lead the line for Duke last season, a thankless task considering how blunt of an edge her teammates showed in front of goal. Payne still didn’t do such a bad job of spearheading the attack, leading the club with seven goals in 2014, more than twice her freshman total. That included four goals in ten league matches, but Payne still isn’t a terribly efficient forward given last year’s stats. That might preclude her from seeing time as a center forward at the next level, but her ability on the flank could still be invaluable. The next step for Payne is clearly one towards being a ten goal scorer who strikes with more efficiency. If so, a spot in the first half of 2017’s draft could be within reach.

16. Margaret ‘Midge’ Purce – F (RF, CF) – Harvard

Big things were expected of Purce coming into college at Harvard, as she was arguably the school’s best ever recruit and one that could potentially push the Crimson to heights beyond that of a powerful mid-major. While Purce has definitely helped her side stay atop the Ivy League, questions as to her upside are definitely floating up to the surface. A first warning sign perhaps was a relatively flat U20 WWC performance for the U.S., though she was hardly the only player guilty of underwhelming. But upon her return to Harvard, Purce still put up abysmal efficiency numbers, needing 6.8 shots per goal and posting an absurdly low 36.8% shot on goal percentage. Those numbers, especially against middling competition, simply must get better for Purce to maintain her status as a big time prospect for the next level.

17. Kayla Mills – D (RB, LB) – USC

Really, all it takes sometimes for a player to make a big breakthrough is a position switch. Mills was already looking like a player to watch in the attack as a rookie with four goals and eight assists, but an offseason move to full-back ended up being a stroke of genius for the Trojans, as Mills turned into one of the nation’s best in her first season there. Though Mills’ offensive totals predictably dropped off from her freshman totals, her level of play skyrocketed to the point that she’s been drafted back into the U.S. U23 team for their Summer trip to Norway and the Four Nations Tournament. Has center-back size, but her attacking ability is too acute for her to be shifted back inside. With this class short on full-back talent, there’s a good chance Mills will be the first one off the board come January 2017.

18. Kailen Sheridan – GK – Clemson

Maybe this draft class’ Rorschach test. Has excelled for the most part with Clemson in the rigorous ACC but was pretty bad for Canada’s U20s in the U20 World Cup this past year, most notably with a clanger against Ghana in the team’s opener. Excellent footwork and shot-stopping ability with a good leg. Bravery off her line helps in some instances but can also see her getting punished as well. Good size for the position but notably gets little lift when she jumps, which could be a problem in dealing with crosses against bigger players at professional and international level. Can show nervousness when box gets congested with traffic. In a class barren of goalkeepers, she’ll probably be the second off the board, with someone hoping to get a gem.

19. Berglind Thorvaldsdottir – F (CF) – Florida State

Oh, the difference a year can make. After Thorvaldsdottir’s redshirt freshman season, expectations probably weren’t terribly high considering the Icelandic forward’s maddeningly inconsistent ways in front of goal. A season later, the Icelandic attacker’s stock is rising through the roof after a great season firing home twelve goals for the Noles despite starting just a pair of matches. Perhaps more importantly, her usage numbers were good, with a dazzling 3.66 shots per goal number being the highlight. A solid number of her goals came against top opposition as well, showing the Icelandic forward is no flat-track bully. The big question now is how Thorvaldsdottir and Cheyna Williams co-exist in attack. If the former stays as the club’s super sub, she may have to wait until her senior season to truly soar further up these rankings.

20. Stephanie Amack – D (RB, LB, CB), MF (DMC) – Stanford

Did the bloom come off the rose for Amack a bit in 2014? The ceiling for Amack appeared to be limitless before she came to Stanford, with the Californian having been the youngest member of the U.S.’ 2012 U20 WWC winning squad and getting off to a solid start to her collegiate career a year later. Last year was one of stagnation though, as Amack languished on the disappointing U20 side that bowed out in the quarterfinals of the WWC before returning to Palo Alto, where she lost her role as a starter at the end of the season, a stunning turn of developments seeing as how high her star had risen before. A full-back at youth international level as well as with Stanford, it seems more likely that Amack slots in as a center-back or a defensive midfielder at the next level, though her role with the Card remains in flux.

21. Joanna Boyles – MF (AMC, MC) – North Carolina

Playmaking central midfielder graduated high school early to help get a quicker start to her collegiate career and was used mostly as a wave player off the bench as a rookie in 2013. Took a massive step forward as one of three UNC players to start all twenty matches last season, logging a team best eight assists. That included six in league play, as well as all three of her goals on the season. Has a deft touch on set pieces, including an ace eye on free kicks. Development may be hindered by lack of superstar center forwards here at the moment, but if UNC could find one, Boyles could go zooming up the board. As is, she’s a playmaker with ideal size and great upside considering her age.

22. Ashley Hatch – F (CF) – BYU

Hatch looked to be more of a long-term project after her freshman season, where she scored goals and showed potential but also looked plenty rough around the edges, needing perhaps more time to learn how to be consistently effective at this level. It was more of the same early in 2014, with one goal in her first five, but when the light came on for Hatch, it really came on, with the Arizona native finishing with eighteen goals as she shredded WCC opponents. That’s not to say Hatch is the finished product yet, as her efficiency numbers (especially a sub-45% SOG %) need improvement, while she also could do with some more goals against top opposition. But the potential is certainly there, especially for clubs looking to play with a direct, physical forward up top.

23. Mimi Rangel – MF (AMC) – Long Beach State

Little #10 already looks like having the potential to be one of the best Big West players ever after just two seasons starring for LBSU. An impudent playmaker with vision and flair in spades, Rangel has already been a star for the perennial contending 49ers. At 5’2”, she’ll have to succeed where many other undersized playmakers have come up short at the next level, but Rangel still has tons of upside to grow into in her last two years of DI ball. A better playmaker than scorer, Rangel still has notched eight goals in two seasons, though her efficiency rate indicates she probably isn’t going to be a big threat in front of goal at the next level. If LBSU gets solid center forward play, Rangel could truly blossom as an upperclassman.

24. Tyler Lussi – F – Princeton

The comparisons to Jen Hoy are going to be inevitable given the school, but you get the impression that Lussi could yet reach greater heights given her scoring exploits through two seasons. Lussi went nuclear as a sophomore, netting eighteen goals in just sixteen matches, a stunning return for any player at this level. Those weren’t empty numbers either, as Lussi’s efficiency numbers were solid, and she did net four goals against RPI Top 50 teams and six against RPI Top 100 teams. The increasing difficulty of Ivy League sides in finding top opposition in non-conference play might hinder her development a bit, but if Lussi keeps scoring, she’ll be hard to ignore in the draft.

25. Christina Gibbons – D (RB, LB), MF (CM, RM) – Duke

U20 World Cup defender got thrown into the fire at youth international level last year, playing left-back instead of her preferred position on the right side of the pitch. It was all change when she got back to Duke as well, as Gibbons was thrust into a more advanced position to try and help out an anemic offense hit by offseason losses. While Gibbons had three goals and three assists, you get the sense that her future at the next level might be back at full-back. Whether Gibbons ends up there this season with Duke may depend on whether the Blue Devils have more firepower. At any rate, Gibbons’ versatility will be a big plus in her favor as she tries to make the jump to the pros.

26. Candace Cephers – MF (DMC) – Virginia Tech

They don’t build’em like Cephers any more. A towering figure at 5’10”, Cephers is the classic defensive midfield hardman, with her crunching tackles and strength in the air making her a great fit for Virginia Tech’s punishing, physical style. Scarily enough for opponents, Cephers’ game is still evolving, as she proved to be a threat in front of goal last year too, her massive frame helping her be an inviting target on the end of set pieces. Given Cephers’ size and aerial ability, you wonder if she won’t get a look at center-back at the next level. Even if she doesn’t, the scarcity of true defensive midfielders with talent should make Cephers a commodity on draft day.

27. Courtney Dike – F (CF) – Oklahoma State

Whirling dervish, all-energy type forward who made a name for herself internationally at last year’s U20 World Cup as a member of a tremendously entertaining Nigeria side. That showing likely earned her a spot on Nigeria’s WWC squad this Summer, as it certainly wasn’t her collegiate form as a sophomore. After a fantastic rookie season, Dike looked jaded upon her return from the U20 WWC and netted just three goals on forty-nine shots in 2014. At her best when running against center-backs onto balls hoofed over the backline, Dike is a player with a need for a big junior season to keep herself up this high in the rankings.

28. Jaycie Johnson – F (CF), D (FB) – Nebraska

Freshman phenom couldn’t quite follow up her outstanding rookie season with more of the same, but the odds on that happening were never going to be great with Johnson turning in to the focus of the offense for the Huskers with Jordan Jackson gone. Goals total dropped from seventeen to eleven, while her efficiency numbers were a bit of a mixed big with a good shots on goal ratio but middling shots per goal mark. Additionally, while Johnson did well against RPI Top 100 teams, her numbers dipped against the cream of the crop, with just one score against an RPI Top 50 team. A fixture with the U.S. U23 team now, Johnson has played at youth international level on defense and is a prime contender for a move to full-back as a pro.

29. Nickolette Driesse – MF (MC) – Penn State

Central midfielder will be looking for a fresh start after falling out of favor at Florida State as a sophomore upon her return to the club after the U20 World Cup last year. Such a fall was a big surprise considering Driesse looked like one of the best young players in the ACC as a freshman in 2013. At her best as a deep-lying playmaker, spraying long diagonal balls to the channels or over the top of backlines. Will probably be doing more defending than she’s used to with Raquel Rodriguez and Emily Ogle in the same midfield but should move into a more offensive role when Rodriguez graduates. Should move back up this list if she settles quickly with PSU.

30. Brie Hooks – F (RF, LF) – Colorado

Spritely attacker was just the offensive medicine Colorado needed after a painful dry spell in front of goal. Made a great debut as a rookie, but her development may have stagnated a bit last year, despite netting eight goals and seven assists. Efficiency rates that Hooks put up last season for the Buffs probably aren’t going to get it done in the pros, though CU’s lack of consistent secondary scoring options are forcing her to shoot early and shoot often. Undersized to play in the middle at the next level at 5’1”, so she’ll probably have to try and maker an impact on the wings as a pro.

31. Emily Bruder – F (CF) – North Carolina

Old school battering ram type forward was joint top scorer for the Tar Heels in 2014. The bad news is that that only meant five goals for Bruder, who flitted in and out of the starting lineup and finished with below average efficiency numbers for the ACC powerhouse. Still improved markedly on a freshman season where she barely made an impression. Is a load to handle for defenders given her size and strength. Still learning how to play the game at this level and would probably be a project at the next level. Solid upside, but you wonder if she’s dynamic enough to deal with the pace of the game as a pro.

32. Tabby Tindell – F (CF) – Florida Gulf Coast

If she keeps scoring at her current pace, Tindell could be a late round sleeper in this class, akin to someone like former Illinois State forward Rachel Tejada. The raw numbers and analytics numbers for Tindell are undeniable. She needed just seventy-two shots to score twenty goals last season and added eight assists to boot. Tindell’s clutch scoring was ridiculous last year, with eleven of her twenty goals going down as game winners, one of the best marks in Division I. Solid scoring record against top opposition only bolsters her case as a prospect to watch, and with FGCU playing a rigorous non-conference schedule, Tindell should continue to grow as a player.

33. Abby Reed – F (RF) – DePaul

Sometimes making a step up in class after transferring to a bigger school just isn’t a big ask at all. Consider the case of Reed, who was a revelation as a rookie at Indiana State before transferring late to DePaul. Instead of needing time to adapt to Big East soccer, it was league defenses that needed to do the adapting, as Reed’s numbers actually improved across the board despite the stiffer competition. Possesses some sterling efficiency numbers out on the wing but needs to net more goals against top competition to truly rise up this board. DePaul should score a ton of goals with her Alexa Ben, and Elise Wyatt returning, so there’s plenty of space to move up this board the next few seasons.

34. Pamela Begic – MF (AMC, AMR) – Florida

Gigantic Slovenian midfielder is still a project two years into her NCAA tenure with the Gators, but it’s hard to deny the raw potential within. Despite missing time with a concussion as a rookie, she netted four goals and six assists in 2013, leading many to believe a breakout season was on tap in 2014. Her totals sagged a bit though, and the Slovenian wasn’t automatic first choice in the lineup any more either. I’m skeptical as to whether Begic is dynamic enough to play as a winger at the next level, but she still whips in a mighty nice cross, though a move inside might be needed. Might get typecast as a bruiser in the middle with her size, but she’s more nuanced in her game than that and could turn into something special if coached right.

35. Ifeoma Onumonu – F – Cal

A conservative placement for a player who was flying high through two seasons until injury cut her down early last season, forcing the Bears striking star into a medical redshirt season. Was a middle round prospect before that injury, netting nineteen goals and nine assists in two seasons, including eleven as a rookie for Cal. Efficiency numbers were tremendous as a freshman but took a slight dip as a sophomore, though they were still more than a little passable. The big question is how much the injury will have affected her ability. This class is deep with forwards though, so she’ll need to hit the ground running again if she’s to zoom back up this board.

36. Serina Kashimoto – D (CB), MF (CM) – Butler

Former Japanese U17 captain took a little while to adapt to this level but ended up having a great season for underachieving Butler in 2014. Obviously, the technical skill is there for Kashimoto to make an impact, but her size at 5’3” is going to be a major concern considering she played at center-back at youth international and was a man-marker for Butler last season. Tried out in W-League in central midfield, which may be a path to a pro career. Should be in demand back in Japan at the very least.

37. Mandy Freeman – D (CB, RB, LB) – USC

Took a bit of a step back after producing one of the better freshman seasons in recent Pac-12 memory for the Trojans in 2013. Used as a ‘slash’ defender on the backline, playing both at full-back and at center-back, where she excelled as a rookie. Has the size to play at center-back at the next level, though her versatility should help her stick as a utility defender at the very least if she continues to develop. Physical tools there to make a step up, and she could be a big riser if USC makes progress this year as well.

38. Kirsten Crowley – D (CB, RB), MF – Florida State

Nominally known as the fourth Florida State defender on a star-studded backline, Crowley may be the most important defender FSU has in 2015 with the graduation of Kristin Grubka. After playing as a right-back in 2013 as a redshirt freshman, Crowley moved inside to take the place of Kassey Kallman and did well despite filling some very talented shoes. Size-wise, Crowley’s undersized for a center-back at the next level at just 5’5” and may have to slide back outside to make it. Defensive midfield is another possibility. 2015 will be a big test of her leadership capabilities in central defense with Grubka gone.

39. Meagan Harbison – MF (DMC), D (FB) – Pepperdine

Older sister of defensive star Hailey Harbison, the elder Harbison could make a mark of her own after making a quantum leap forward in her sophomore season with the Waves. Can play on either the backline or as a defensive midfielder, but she may have to make a mark at full-back at the next level given her lack of size to play in the center as either a midfield or anchor or as a center-back. Not totally inept on offense but hard envisioning her playing a little further forward as a playmaker. Has a shot as a late round pick but she may already be close to her ceiling as pro potential goes.

40. Ryan Walker-Hartshorn – F (RF, CF), D (RB) – Stanford

Mercurial prospect may not have a position at this point after two seasons of being bounced around for the Card. Big enough to play center-back at 5’11” but may be quick enough to get a shot at right-back, albeit one of the biggest right-backs on the planet if it sticks. Was used more as an attacking option as a sophomore both as a center-forward and on the flank in Stanford’s 4-3-3. Proved to be frustratingly inconsistent, as when she was on, she was almost unplayable, which wasn’t often enough for Stanford in 2014. With so much offense departing, she’ll likely lead the line in a critical season for her professional aspirations.

41. Ashley Herndon – F/MF – James Madison

Small school prospect who’s accelerated her development with the Washington Spirit reserves in the Summer, impressing for the W-League powerhouse. Plies her trade with JMU in college and has impressed for the perennial CAA contenders, tallying twelve goals and fifteen assists thus far over the course of two seasons. Efficiency numbers are pretty poor though, so Herndon may need to cut her teeth as a midfielder to get a chance at the next level. Could round into a solid contributor if she’s allowed time to develop.

42. Darian Jenkins – F (CF) – UCLA

Tall and speedy center-forward looked like a potential early round pick after her freshman season but hit a sophomore slump last year, seeing her goals total drop from eleven to six while also missing a few games through a concussion and being relegated to a reserve role in others. Efficiency numbers were a mixed bag compared to rookie year but still, a near 4:1 shot to goal ratio and 60% shot on goal mark will keep her in the conversation. With four of the club’s five top scorers from last season departing, Jenkins will be counted upon for goals this season, and if she delivers, she should zoom back up this list.

43. Hannah Leinert – F – Purdue

One of this class’ most intriguing small school prospects suddenly got a bigger stage when she followed head coach Drew Roff from Illinois State to Big Ten side Purdue. Leinert was a stud at Roff’s ISU program, immediately turning into one of the league’s best players and netting twenty-seven goals and thirteen assists in forty-three matches. Efficiency numbers are more than good enough, but Leinert figures to need to show she can do it against top competition to get a shot at the next level. The good news is she should have plenty of chances to do just that against Big Ten foes.

44. Nicky Waldeck – F (CF, RF) – Michigan

Probably one of this draft class’ most polarizing prospects at this point. Came alive after a decent rookie season as Michigan’s super sub, improving to twelve goals and five assists while starting nineteen matches for the Wolverines. However, those goals were pretty hollow if you dig deeper and find that Waldeck scored just two in the run of play against RPI Top 100 teams and none against RPI Top 50 clubs. Making matters worse, her efficiency was among the worst of the big scorers in this class last year. Scoring potential clearly there, it’s just a matter of smoothing out the rough edges.

45. Tarah Hobbs – GK – Minnesota

Tremendously athletic goalkeeper what excellent reflexes and shot-stopping ability that helps her make some jaw-dropping saves in line with the top keepers of this class. Consistency is Hobbs’ bug-a-boo though, as the Minnesotan hasn’t always played to the best of her abilities for the Gophers. Not as great last season as she was as a rookie, despite not facing quite the same barrage of shots as she did when a freshman. Worth taking a flyer on later in the draft or in camp for her upside.

46. Gabby Byorth – D (RB) – Clemson

One of the preeminent reasons that Clemson’s defense went from being beaten like a piñata to being one of the ACC’s more fierce units. Thrown right into the fire into the crucible of the ACC as a rookie in 2013 and excelled at right-back. A threat going forward as well with seven assists in two seasons for the Tigers. This class looks short on quality full-backs on paper, so her value could shoot through the roof if she continues to perform well on the flanks for Clemson over the next two seasons.

47. Hannah Seabert – GK – Pepperdine

The top two goalkeepers in this class look pretty much set in stone, so it’s probably between Hobbs and Seabert for the honor of being the best of the rest. Big keeper with long limbs and an ability to cover the entire goal and come out and make herself big to dispel threats. Ability to make some very athletic saves but also looks awkward in the air with high balls at times. Will likely be a four-year starter by the time she graduates. Solid upside prospect that could turn into an NWSL backup or contributor in Europe.

48. Jacqueline Altschuld – MF/D – San Diego

The San Diego Swiss army knife, Altschuld starred on defense as a rookie in 2013, starting all of the club’s matches in her first year. She’d take a more attacking role last season on a Toreros side still searching for an offensive foothold to compete at the very top of the WCC. Despite not being an out and out forward, Altschuld led the club in goals last season, netting five as a midfielder, including four game winners. Her efficiency numbers are a bit erratic, so she may be moved back onto the backline if she makes it at the next level. Versatility a big plus.

49. Lauren Miller – F – North Dakota State

Miller came into the Bison team with a mountain of hype behind her a few seasons ago as a former youth international for the U.S. and consequently one of the top ever recruits for the perennial Summit League contenders. Miller’s more than lived up to the hype, netting nineteen goals in two seasons while putting up tremendous efficiency numbers as a sophomore last season, including a whopping 63.9% of her shots being on frame. Opportunities to impress reduced at small schools like NDSU but could very easily be a late-round sleeper/undrafted free agent find.

50. Simone Charley – F – Vanderbilt

Two-sport athlete for the Dores can absolutely fly. Played second fiddle a bit to Cheyna Williams as a rookie but was tasked with spearheading the Vandy offense last season after Williams’ transfer. Netted nine goals on a club that was pretty bereft of other scoring options but did so with average to below average efficiency numbers. Coaching change may help her out in the long run but remains a project for the next level, though one with enormous upside thanks to her athleticism.

7 thoughts on “NWSL – 2017 Draft Class Top 50 Ranking – Buchanan Muscles Her Way To #1

  1. VaFan51

    I think omitting Alexis Shaffer from Virginia is a mistake. I have seen her play against some of the folks listed above and she really deserves to be among the top 50 rising juniors. We will see if the loss of Brian and Colapricco reduces her effectiveness or if she steps up and develops her game.

    Reply
    1. Chris Henderson Post author

      D’oh. I always forget someone in these. She’s probably in the Top 30 as a quick assessment, though I probably won’t get around to changing these rankings until after the 2015 college season.

      Reply
  2. Rob Murphy

    Also think Hellstrom from Kent St could also be included in this list. Had a great college career and left her senior year with every offensive record in school history. Fast, highly skilled, with a big motor and never quit determination.

    Reply
  3. Reggie Redbird

    Koehl and Jarsombeck out of Illinois State really made noise this year for a small time school. No telling what they can accomplish under professional wings 24/7. Sleeper picks.

    Reply

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