The San Jose Earthquakes enter 2014 with question marks at key positions in their projected Starting XI and plenty of space on the roster to accommodate new faces. And so, with a bevy of college players to choose from in the 2014 MLS Draft next week, the Quakes will first look for a wide defender, someone who can contest for minutes from the outgo, a player that can make fans forget the impending departure of All-Star right back Steven Beitashour.
So with the ninth selection in the first round of the SB Nation MLS Mock Draft, the Earthquakes select Creighton University defender and Generation Adidas signing Eric Miller.
Miller, arguably the best outside back available in the draft, decided to forego his senior season to sign with MLS as part of its seven player GA class. At 6'1" and 175 lbs, Miller has the size to play defense, but it is his versatility at playing midfielder as well that will make him an easy choice for the Quakes technical staff. From the wing, Miller scored 4 goals and collected 4 assists in three seasons with the Blue Jays. In addition to his exploits in college, Miller was a member of the U.S. Men's National Team U-20 squad last year.
What the San Jose Earthquakes will be looking for in the draft: Defensive help, at all four positions along the back line, is a priority for general manager John Doyle and head coach Mark Watson to add to the roster. In addition to the expected exodus of Beitashour, the Earthquakes have traded away Justin Morrow and released Dan Gargan and Nana Attakora. The four man departure accounted for 69 appearances in 2013, a number that will have to be replaced by new acquisitions such as Miller.
Who the experts say the San Jose Earthquakes will pick: With a top-ten selection in the first round of the draft, the onus on Doyle and Watson is to pick a player that can compete for significant minutes this season. Most of the other mock drafts have the Earthquakes picking a player, like Miller, that can fulfill that role. If the Creighton product is not available at #9, expect San Jose to select another of the top defenders, perhaps a centerback, instead.
Why QRG will invariably be wrong: Miller certainly fits a need for defensive depth, and with a GA contract makes himself an attractive target for a budget-conscious club like San Jose, but those same qualities are likely to see him coveted by one of the teams ahead of the Quakes in the selection order. It is by no means a reach for the Earthquakes to select Miller, but a paucity of quality outside backs in this year's pool may make him too attractive to another suitor.
Why QRG is smarter than the pundits: The Quakes need to build back the depth in their roster they enjoyed for much of last season, and that begins with the wings. With scant attention often paid to the college game, it can be very enticing to simply pick the best available player left on the board when the clock is on, and this year that seems to be at centerback. The Earthquakes can feel comfortable with their depth at that position, making Miller the logical choice to make the move to San Jose.
Full Mock Draft results (click on player names to see the profiles)
|1. D.C. United||Black and Red United||Patrick Mullins|
|2. Philadelphia Union||Brotherly Game||Steve Neumann|
|3. Vancouver Whitecaps||86 Forever||Andre Blake|
|4. Columbus Crew||Massive Report||Steve Birnbaum|
|5. FC Dallas||Big D Soccer||Christian Dean|
|6. Union||Brotherly Game||Marlon Hairston|
|7. Whitecaps||86 Forever||Damion Lowe|
|8. Chicago Fire||Hot Time In Old Town||Grant Van De Casteele|
|9. San Jose Earthquakes||Quake, Rattle and Goal||Eric Miller|
|10. Montreal Impact||Mount Royal Soccer||A.J Corrado|
|11. Colorado Rapids||Burgundy Wave||Schillo Tshuma|
|12. New England Revolution||The Bent Musket||JJ Koval|
|13. Seattle Sounders||Sounder at Heart||Aodhan Quinn|
|14. LA Galaxy||LAG Confidential||Fifi Baiden|
|15. Toronto FC||Waking the Red||AJ Cochran|
|16. Houston Dynamo||Dynamo Theory||Mamadou Diouf|
|17. Portland Timbers||Stumptown Footy||Reinaldo Brenes|
|18. Real Salt Lake||RSL Soapbox||Ben Sweat|
|19. Revolution||The Bent Musket||Marco Franco|
|20. Chivas USA||The Goat Parade||Enrique Cardenas|
|21. Sounders||Sounder at Heart||Taylor Peay|
|22. New York Red Bulls||Once a Metro||Pete Caringi|
|23. Crew||Massive Report||Pedro Ribeiro|
|24. Toronto FC||Waking the Red||Joey Dillon|
|25. Union||Brotherly Game||Jared Watts|
|26. Timbers||Stumptown Footy||Kevin Cope|
|27. Union||Brotherly Game||Kyle Venter|
|28. Earthquakes||Quake, Rattle and Goal||Mackenzie Pridham|
|29. Impact||Mout Royal Soccer||Jimmy Ockford|
|30. Whitecaps||86 Forever||Nikita Kotlov|
|31. Revolution||The Bent Musket||Victor Chavez|
|32. Dynamo||Dynamo Theory||Kristopher Tyrpak|
|33. Rapids||Burgundy Wave||Rafael Diaz|
|34. Red bulls||Once a Metro||Alex Martinez|
|35. Rapids||Burgundy Wave||Zach Bolden|
|36. Timbers||Stumptown Footy||Mark Sherrod|
|37. Impact||Mout Royal Soccer||Michael Calderon|
|38. Sporting Kansas City||The Daily Wiz|