The 2021 edition of the NWSL Draft is not an easy one to prepare for.
With only a handful of conferences playing a limited schedule in the fall, there's a great deal of uncertainty about which players are coming out of school and turning pro. Players can return for the spring 2021, or even to play later in the fall, retaining their eligibility even after being drafted.
Catarina Macario announced her intentions to turn pro and leave Stanford last week, and Grant Wahl is now reporting that she is likely to sign with Lyon (although Bayern Munich remains a possibility). The length of the deal cited makes it unlikely for Macario to go as the first overall pick; it's clear that she is the top talent in the draft pool by some distance.
Below is a first-round mock for the 2021 NWSL Draft, gauging the top talent on the board and speculating on who might be available. A second one will be published on Wednesday morning ahead of the January 13 draft.
|1||Emily Fox||North Carolina||D|
|With Macario not in the picture, Louisville must look elsewhere with the top pick, as the new organization needs to build out a roster. Fox should be at minimum, be a serviceable NWSL left back or left midfielder if she can stay healthy after suffering a pair of ACL tears during her college career.|
|2||Sam Coffey||Penn State||M|
|Central midfield is the one spot where the Spirit could use help. Coffey is expected to play out her senior season, but provided Washington deems that it can wait for her to join up after the spring 2021 campaign. Effective with her set piece delivery, she's one of several candidates that the Spirit could look at here. If a player decides to leave school early that could change things here. Or, the Spirit could lean towards someone like Emina Ekic, who has already announced her plans to leave school.|
|3||Malia Berkely||Florida State||D|
|One of the top central defenders in the draft pool, Berkely brings quatily, experience and pedigree with her from a strong Seminoles program. Teams could be concerned about her athleticism, as she thrived for a ball-dominant team in Tallahasse. With Kaleigh Riehl picked in the expansion draft, she'd boost the team's back line depth.|
|The slashing attacker had a big breakout in 2019, scoring goals for fun and helping the USC attack thrive. She can play underneath the striker or out wide.|
|Part of Stanford's rampant success during her time in Palo Alto, Pickett is one of the top outside backs in the draft and should be a first round pick. If she's going to play right away, it would make sense for the new franchise to go in that direciton.|
|The Red Stars went out and brought in Mal Pugh during the offseason. And while she's yet to really fire in the league, Haley is a great complement forward, as she showed playing up front with Macario. While Chicago already has forwards on offer, Haley's progress at Stanford is sure to set her up, as she's a clever and intelligent striker that could be a real asset if given time to adjust.|
|A talented youth international, DeMelo missed the 2019 season with an Achilles injury. Provided she's back to her best (and opting to leave school in 2021), she's a good pickup here on Portland's depth chart.|
|8||Taylor Otto||North Carolina||M|
|While there are potentially higher ceiling players out there, Otto has the talent and ability to at least be a candidate to see minutes in the league. The central midfielder will help reinforce a Sky Blue roster ahead of the new season.|
|Alex Morgan leads the line for the Pride, although it's unclear if Sydney Leroux will re-sign. Grabbing a forward like Colohan, who was one of the nation's best attacking players in 2019, would be a solid add.|
|Versatile enough to play as an outside back or in the midfield, Ryan would be a perfect addition to the Courage. She could compete for minutes at outside back and lean on her ability to play at different positions to provide a high-quality depth player.|