NWSL 2022 mock draft 2.0: How every team could draft in Round 1

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Stanford's Naomi Girma is the No. 1 pick of the 2022 NWSL College Draft. (Jamie Schwaberow/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

The NWSL announced the list of draft-eligible players for Saturday’s event, and as a result, the second and final mock draft looks very different from our first edition last week.

Florida State’s Jaelin Howell is still expected to go No. 1 overall after she officially declared for the draft, but she’s the only player from the 2021 national champions making the jump at this time. Several other NCAA stars from the fall season are either returning for their extra year of eligibility or keeping their name out of the draft.

Before the College Draft kicks off at 2 p.m. ET on Saturday, here is the second and final NWSL first-round mock draft for Just Women’s Sports.

1. San Diego Wave FC

Jaelin Howell, M, Florida State

Howell wrapped up a decorated college career at Florida State with a second national championship and First Team All-American honor as a senior. The 2020 MAC Hermann Trophy winner started 21 games this year as a holding midfielder, leading a group that recorded 23 shutouts and adding two goals and four assists (not to mention the game-winner in the NCAA semifinals). She should compete for minutes right away with the expansion club.

2. Racing Louisville FC

Naomi Girma, D, Stanford

The three-year Stanford captain would bring immediate steadiness and leadership to Racing Louisville’s backline. Girma has the skill level and experience to help a young Louisville team that gave up 40 goals last season, the most in the NWSL. The two-time Pac-12 Defender of the Year won a national championship with Stanford in 2019 and has been a part of the U.S. youth system for years, serving as captain of the U20 team and winning the U.S. Soccer Young Female Player of the Year award in 2020.

3. North Carolina Courage

Mia Fishel, F, UCLA

Declaring early for the draft, Fishel wrapped up her junior season at UCLA with back-to-back United Soccer Coaches All-American honors. In 59 games, she scored 32 goals and added 14 assists, moving into the Bruins’ top 10 all-time goal scorers in just three seasons. With the No. 3 pick, the Courage can add a young player with upside who can develop behind returning attackers Lynn Williams, Amy Rodriguez and Jessica McDonald.

4. Racing Louisville FC

Emily Gray, M, Virginia Tech

With several top-end players heading back to school, Gray becomes one of the best midfield prospects available. She had an excellent senior season this fall, scoring 12 goals and adding eight assists for the Hokies, meaning she was involved in nearly half of her team’s goals. While she may not provide that kind of attacking punch at the pro level, Gray’s ability to connect through the midfield makes her a good fit for Louisville.

5. Orlando Pride

Sydny Nasello, F, South Florida

After the Pride hired Amanda Cromwell from the college ranks, what they do with their first-round draft pick is going to be fascinating to watch. While Nasello is no replacement for Alex Morgan, she’s a wide attacker who can play along flank and she improves the team’s depth across the forward line. Coming from USF, she’ll be a known commodity to Orlando’s technical staff.

Diana Ordoñez competes for the U.S. women's U20 team. (Brad Smith/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

6. Houston Dash

Diana Ordoñez, F, Virginia

Ordoñez announced in late November that she would forgo her final year of college eligibility and declare for the NWSL Draft as a junior. Her stock might never be higher after she finished the 2021 season second in the NCAA with 18 goals and first with eight game-winning goals, earning her the ACC Offensive Player of the Year award and a First Team All-American nod. A Houston team that just missed out on the playoffs in 2021 could use Ordoñez’s scoring punch. It would also be a homecoming of sorts for the Texas native.

7. North Carolina Courage

Caitlin Cosme, CB, Duke

As an anchor for one of the top defenses in the country this fall, Cosme capped an excellent career in Durham by leading the team in minutes played with 1,829 and scoring three goals. Listed at 5-foot-5, she plays bigger than her size and has the versatility to play on the flanks or as a defensive midfielder if not centrally.

8. NJ/NY Gotham FC

Sydney Cummings, CB, Georgetown

After a decorated career at Brown, Cummings transferred to Georgetown and was the Big East Defender of the Year this past season. She helped lead one of the best defenses in the country and has the skills and ability to slot into Gotham’s competitive backline. As a bonus, she’s a local product from New Jersey.

9. San Diego Wave FC

Raleigh Loughman, CM, Michigan

The San Diego native makes a lot of sense for the expansion club’s ninth pick. Loughman enjoyed a stellar fall season in front of goal, scoring nine goals and adding nine assists on a talented Michigan team. The lone player from the squad to declare for the draft, Loughman will likely fill a depth role at the next level. Her ability to cope with the defensive and possession responsibilities with her new team will determine her success, but she has the quality to make it happen.

10. OL Reign

Savannah DeMelo, CM, USC

After suffering an Achilles tear and missing the 2019 season, DeMelo returned for both the spring and fall campaigns this year, playing a total of 34 matches in 2021. Primarily an attacking midfielder, she can also play out on the left or in a deeper role. This past fall, USC deployed her in a variety of ways, including as a striker. Carving out a clear role and playing for a team that values the ball will be important for her chances as a pro, and she would be a good fit in the Pacific Northwest.

11. Chicago Red Stars

Julie Doyle, F, Santa Clara

While Doyle didn’t play the fall season after using her final year of eligibility in the spring, she’s included on the draft list and is a strong candidate to go in the first round. She spent the fall training and playing in England and is a forward who can play either on the wing or underneath a lone striker. The Red Stars can add a quality player here with the ability to step in immediately and compete for minutes.

12. Kansas City Current

Izzy Rodriguez, LB, Ohio State

There’s no such thing as too much outside back depth, and with plenty already on the roster, the Current can go in a number of different directions to close out the first round. Rodriguez was the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year in the spring, wrapping up her career in Columbus with 88 appearances. If she can handle the jump in attacking quality out wide, she’s a very solid backup to Hailie Mace on the left side. A case could be made to even try her centrally as a left center back.

Travis Clark is a contributing writer at Just Women’s Sports, covering college soccer and the NWSL Draft. He is also the Director of Content at Top Drawer Soccer. Follow him on Twitter @travismclark.