Measuring success in the SuperDraft is a difficult thing to get a grasp of. Success comes in many different flavors: Is it about finding the player that becomes vital? Or perhaps is it more focused on finding serviceable players year after year? Maybe it's more about finding the best fit at the right time.
If we're to be truthful, it's undoubtedly a mix of a number of factors. Drafting players that turn out to be good MLS players might be do-able, but when you have a veteran squad packed with talent, those good players might end up withering away on the bench if they're signed long-term.
One measure of not having much success is in not finding players who can do anything for your team. Obviously, having a 28-man squad heading into the draft means you're less likely to do so, and success in the draft becomes a lower priority.
Let's look at Real Salt Lake's draft picks from 2010 forward. We can term this the 'modern era,' or perhaps the post-MLS-Cup era. We'll focus only on the first three rounds unless a fourth-round player was kept around. How many were kept around?
In 2010, we picked Collen Warner in the first round. He was kept around until Montreal Impact selected him in the expansion draft, so there's a success story. Justin Davis was our second-round pick, but he wasn't signed to the team. Chris Schuler got the third-round selection, and clearly, he's a real success story.
In 2011, Real Salt Lake had only one pick: Jarad van Schaik in the third round. He didn't take a contract with the team, either. However, in the fourth round (or the first round of the Supplemental Draft), we selected Jeff Attinella, who has come back and been a strong, dominant influence.
In 2012, we picked Enzo Martinez 17th in the draft. It's hard to know whether this was a success story or not, because he never played in his two years here. One of our second-round picks, Diogo de Almeida, didn't make it with the team, and our other second-rounder, Sebastian Velasquez, clearly did.
In 2013, Real Salt Lake picked John Stertzer at 12th, and judging by his performances when not injured, he's a success -- but injuries have given his career a stop-start quality. Our second-round pick was Devon Sandoval, and he's another success. That's a pretty good year, isn't it?
2014, though, wasn't our best. Our first-round pick, Ryan Neil, didn't land with the team, and I'm not sure he landed in professional soccer. (Anyone know?) We had no second round pick, and our third-round pick, Joey Dillon, didn't stick with the team but has landed with Arizona United.
You'll note, of course, that 2014 and 2011 were both years in which our interests were more in protecting the team we had than bringing in players through the draft. 2011 saw our CONCACAF Champions League run that took us to the final, and 2014 saw Jeff Cassar step in and the team retained almost wholesale as a result. Intention and teambuilding generally surely have a bearing on measuring success.
It's hard to say Real Salt Lake has been the most successful in any draft year since 2010, but that's in part because we've done well enough in the regular- and post-seasons to not pick particularly high on the list. Still, our best successes have come when finding players that took some time and attention to get up to the levels they're at now.
Can you imagine Real Salt Lake without someone like Chris Schuler? He may have been a third-round pick, but he's better than most first-round picks from the last five years.
As we look to the 2015 SuperDraft, let's keep this as a reminder that not every player will make it, and not every late pick has to be shipped off to Real Monarchs at our earliest convenience.