Hello everyone. Instead of making everyone wait for the full edition, here are the Top 25 on my Big Board after the 2016 season, only considering players that have officially declared as of today. If you read the earlier version of the Big Board posted this past Summer, you can skip the “What I Said Before 2016” section for each prospect and just move onto the “Anything New?” section for each prospect.
EDIT: I’ve added YouTube highlight videos for players that have them. Click on the player’s name where applicable.
EDIT 2: This post has been edited to reflect additional prospects who have entered the draft.
I’ll be posting profiles of the rest of the prospects ranked on my board later in the week.
1. Rose Lavelle – MF (MC) – Wisconsin
What I Said Before 2016:
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. 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. 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.
Lavelle played in a deeper midfield role for much of 2016, which may help her draft stock, but it probably didn’t do much to enhance a toothless Wisconsin attack. She still played well and is an easy first round pick and potential #1 though thanks to her upside. I don’t think she’s a can’t miss player, but I do think Lavelle is a sturdy building block for someone in the midfield.
2. Christina Gibbons – D/MF – Duke
What I Said Before 2016:
Duke’s Swiss army knife really began to rise to prominence in 2014 when she battled her way onto the U.S.’ U20 World Cup team and held her own at left-back for most of the tournament. It underlined Gibbons’ ability at youth international level after having impressed early on in her Blue Devils career, when she had started every match as a rookie while looking like one of the best young defenders in the country. Gibbons continued to grow as a sophomore despite battling injuries late and showcased her versatility in taking up a more offensive role for the Blue Devils as they searched for goals. But Gibbons only really took the leap to the next level for Duke last season, helping marshal one of the nation’s best defenses. With Gibbons playing multiple roles for Duke over the course of the season, she excelled both defensively and going forward, netting three goals and five assists in an All-America season for Duke as they made a thrilling run to the College Cup final. Her versatility in being able to play just about anywhere on the pitch should help her cause, though you have to figure she’ll find her best role at full-back, the role she filled at the U20 World Cup.
Gibbons played more of an offensive role as a senior out of necessity as the Blue Devils were crushed by injuries. That they were able to get to the Elite Eight and within one win of an ACC title is a massive credit to their senior class, including Gibbons, who continues to look like a star in the making. The big question is, where on the pitch will it be? Conceivably, Gibbons could be a utility player used where needed. Regardless, she looks like a very good bet for the first round.
What I Said Before 2016:
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. 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.
Jordan was still pretty good in 2016 but not quite the analytics darling that she was in her junior season. She still finished tied for seventeenth all-time in D1 career goals though and was still one of the nation’s top forwards. And yet the clarion call of “she’s not quick enough” has been uttered in some circles. As was the case with Makenzy Doniak last season, some teams never learn, and Jordan should still be a fine pro going forward with the right fit. Continue reading