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18. This is the number of players aged 22 or under who are named in Fulham’s First Team Squad. That doesn’t include loanees and those other young players who either spent part of last season out on loan or just below the first team. For all but a handful of those who were named in the first team squad, 2014/15 was their first full season in the senior professional ranks. Before writing any of them off or hailing anyone the next anybody, let’s just remember that fact.

In honour of this weekend’s NFL Draft, where the best young players are selected by the pro teams, I thought it would be a novel concept to use a draft concept to analyse how Fulham’s youngsters progressed this season, and who we should look forward to watching in the next campaign and beyond. The order of the picks represents who showed the most potential this season or whose raw skills have the biggest potential to develop, along with taking into account this season’s performance.

So without further ado, with the first pick in the 2015 FFC Young Player Draft, I would select:

1. Lasse Vigen Christensen, Centre Midfield
Age: 20
2014/15 Apps: 29
2014/15 Performance Grade: B
Potential: A
Analysis: The Dane was the only younger player to make an impact on the Fulham first team where you didn’t have to qualify it by saying “for a youngster” afterwards. Though his season came to an abrupt end in February, the midfielder made 25 appearances, scoring 5 goals. He looks a genuine box-to-box talent and will likely play a key role next season. His initial hamstring injury was actually biomechanical and related to an issue with his back that the club now believes they have solved. He’s an energizer bunny type of player with probably the best engine of any player at the club and good technical attributes to back that up. He’s a consensus starting XI player next season and scored a contender for goal of the season at home to Sheffield Wednesday in December.

2. Patrick Roberts, Attacking Midfield
Age: 18
2014/15 Apps: 19
Performance Grade: C+
Potential: A
Analysis: The reason you’d take Roberts in the top two picks in simple, he has the highest ceiling of any player at the club. Good, tricky young players can be a dime a dozen, so Roberts needs to be developed in the right way, and it’s important his ego gets held in check. However, he is undoubtedly a special talent. Unfortunately, his performance grade this season can’t be any higher than a C+ as he’s just not played enough. His development appears to have been poorly managed this season with only 19 appearances (3 starts) totaling a paltry 450 minutes. At 18 he has still looked undersized for senior football but the management’s reluctance to use him off the bench has been equally baffling and frustrating for Roberts and fans alike. He is Fulham’s most exciting offensive talent so needs to make an impact soon. Ideally he’d have been ready to make an impact as a starter come August but that might be too much too soon. He also won’t stay at Fulham for long, hopefully lack of game time won’t be the reason he leaves.

3. Emerson Hyndman, Central Midfield
Age: 19
2014/15 Apps: 11
Performance Grade: C+
Potential: A-
Analysis: Like Roberts, Hyndman is a potential over performance pick. He is technically the best passer of the ball at the club and will only get better with age and physical maturity. Already a senior international, Hyndman’s season was cut short through a broken collarbone sustained whilst starring in the US Under-20s run to qualify for the upcoming Uder-20 world cup. Hyndman was certainly a player who was rushed into the first team too quickly as a result of our relegation. Another year with the Under-21s would have allowed a more natural development curve. That being said, his 89% pass completion rate was the team’s highest, albeit in only 9 league games. Hyndman is someone I am still very high on and expect to play an increasing role as next season progresses.

4. Marcus Bettinelli, Goalkeeper
Age: 22
2014/15 Apps: 44
Performance Grade: B
Potential: B+
Analysis: By far and away the young player with the most experience this season was goalkeeper Bettinelli. He started the season as the 3rd choice but was quickly installed as the Number 1 once Kit Symons replaced the German despot as manager. However, he suffered from having a leaky defence in front of him and eventually he looked like a man suffering a crisis of confidence. Unfortunately without a decent back up he had to stay in for the entire season when he clearly could have done with a mental break. 8 clean sheets in 38 league games is not a bad outcome considering he’s had 24 different back four combinations in front of him. He’s at a good stage in goalkeeper development terms and looks to have a very bright long future ahead of him. 3 penalty saves were the highlight of his season but he needs to stop punching/flapping at crosses, something that will hopefully improve once Kiraly leaves and he has a decent mentor and back up.

5. Cauley Woodrow, Striker
Age: 20
2014/15 Apps: 34
Performance Grade: B/B-
Potential: A-/B+
Analysis: With a pair of strikers going as 5 and 6 in my FFC Draft, I’d choose Woodrow over Dembele as he is ready to contribute more immediately next season. His ceiling might not be as high as Dembele’s, but Cauley’s technical attributes as a back to goal striker are virtually faultless and he’s approaching the size and strength required to properly utilise them. 5 goals in 15 starts isn’t a great return but Woodrow doesn’t play a black and white goalscorers game and as he gets stronger, and hopefully faster, he should be able to forge a good strike partnership with McCormack or Dembele.

6. Moussa Dembele, Striker
Age: 18
2014/15 Apps: 15
Performance Grade: C
Potential: A
Analysis: Moussa Dembele is a physical freak in the respect he’s 18 and a grown full size man. He has a jumping ability that wouldn’t look out of place in the NBA. The one thing he doesn’t have is experience. Dembele only played 575 minutes all season, which, like Roberts again harks to him being slightly mishandled this season, our relegation coming at the wrong time. That being said, the club presumably has a plan for him and I’d guess that him not going out on loan was deliberate. He’s the goalscorer and an ideal partner for Woodrow.

7. Chris David, Midfield
Age: 22
2014/15 Apps: 7
Performance Grade: B-
Potential: A-
Analysis: Just a total waste/misuse of talent. For whatever reason, Kit Symons decided Chris David shouldn’t be a Fulham player and he ended up spending the second half of the season back at former club FC Twente. He’s undeniably talented with a killer pass that is probably only bettered by Bryan Ruiz at the club, however the chances of him still being in South West London come August must be low.

8. Jack Grimmer, Right Back/Centre Back
Age: 21
2014/15 Apps: 17
Performance Grade: B-
Potential: B+
Analysis: Scottish defender Grimmer is a bit of a marmite character amongst Fulham fans. Some wish he’d have played all season or at least that Jazz Richards was unnecessary, others think he’s not up to scratch. I’m in the pro camp and think he’s going to be a first teamer and international. Whether that is at right back I’m not sure, he might end up being a Chris Baird like player who actually plays better centrally. Grimmer excelled on loan at Shrewsbury in the first half of the season before being recalled after Tim Hoogland’s injury. I expect him to start at right back next season.

9. Dan Burn
Age: 22
2014/15 Apps: 21
Performance Grade: B
Potential: B+/B
Analysis: English centre half Burn is one player who seemed to regress over the course of last season. Perhaps it was part of never having regular game time or a stable partner at the back and a manager who obviously isn’t his biggest fan, but Burn just never took the leap we all thought he would this season. He’s too slow off the line and often relies on his long legs to get him out of trouble, but he is a decent defender with good instincts. His best hope of becoming a regular starter again is forging an on-field partnership with Scott Hutchinson as the pair appear good friends, chemistry cannot be over-rated and this looks to be Dan’s best bet.

10. George Williams, Winger/Forward
Age: 19
2014/15 Apps: 16
Performance Grade: C+
Potential: B+
Analysis: Wales international Williams made great strides initially after Symons’ appointment. 8 starts and 8 substitute appearances puts him ahead of Roberts in game time, but unfortunately for him he seemed to fall out of favour, mainly due to Symons’ ongoing tactical lack of wingers. This resulted in a loan to hometown club MK Dons where he lasted 4 games before an ACL injury ended his season. It remains to be seen whether a player who relies on his dribbling ability will be able to recover from such a serious injury, but at only 19 he should be given time and not rushed.

11. Ryan Tunnicliffe, Midfield
Age: 22
2014/15 Apps: 23
Performance Grade: B-
Potential: B
Analysis: Utility midfielder Tunnicliffe is a surprise inclusion on this list as it’s easy to forget the former Man Utd youngster is only 22. He’s reasonably low down the list because it’s hard to feel that he’s not already at about his peak level of performance. So while he contributed more to Fulham this season than some, the impact of those named above has the potential to be greater long term. Tunnicliffe’s best asset is his engine. He’s a tireless runner, probably only second to Christensen for energy, and never gives up – a quality that cannot be over valued. However, his technical skill is someway off some of our homegrown players and should we get some more experienced players in over the summer his role may be reduced to that of versatile squad player. In Ryan’s defence, he was often played out of position on the left of the diamond often employed by Kit Symons following his recall from loan at Blackburn Rovers.

12. Sean Kavanagh, Left back/Left midfield
Age: 21
2014/15 Apps: 22
Performance Grade: C+
Potential: B/B-
Analysis: It’s hard to believe Kavanagh is 21, as you could be forgiven for thinking he’s a teenager given his size and baby face. It’s this lack of physicality that will be Sean’s biggest obstacle to becoming a decent pro. His pencil thin legs seem to remain straight at all times which is a recipe for injury at some point, while he’s also not strong or quick enough to hold down a midfield berth long term. Technically he’s a gifted player, with textbook crossing ability and a decent football brain and he has 1 goal to his credit. He may get a chance back at his native left back spot, but I’m not convinced Kavanagh will make it in the Championship without some major gym work. He’s also never had a loan spell so this season was a true baptism of fire.

13. Cameron Burgess, Centre Back
Age: 19
2014/15 Apps: 4
Performance Grade: C
Potential: B-
Analysis: Giant Aussie/Scot Burgess had a bizarre season. 12 months ago he was playing in the FA Youth Cup Final alongside Liam Donnelly at centre half and was the lesser tipped of the pair to make a go of it this year. Well, while Donnelly has spent the year recovering from injury in the Under-21s, Burgess found himself starting the opening game at Ipswich in the unfamiliar position of central midfield. Yes, Felix did it again, like Dan Burn at right back at Stoke the year before, and almost ruined a young player with a foolish positional switch. Burgess coped admirably considering, but soon got dropped and was never seen again. A loan to Ross County followed, along with an injury that ended his season. He appears to have the attributes to make a contribution going forward, but this was a bizarre and mostly lost season for the 19 year old.

14. Jesse Joronen, Goalkeeper
Age: 22
2014/15 Apps: 4
Performance Grade: C+
Potential: B-
Analysis: Like Burgess, Joronen was another in-favour for a short time under Magath. The Finnish keeper was the victim of team mistakes rather than individual ones but soon found himself ostracised and in exile. Eventually he followed Marcus Bettinelli’s path with a loan to League Two side Accrington Stanley where he made a bright start. Unfortunately, like several players above, he suffered a season ending injury, in this case a dislocated knee cap. I still expect big things from Joronen but he needs a full pre-season and game time before he challenges Bettinelli for the Number 1 spot.

15. Adam Taggart
Age: 21
2014/15 Apps: 0
Performance Grade: N/A
Potential: Unknown
Analysis: Now we’re into the unknown picks. Players with potential, but that we just haven’t seen enough of. The first of these is Australian striker Taggart. He arrived as the A League’s top scorer fresh from the World Cup, but he then spent the entire season on the physio’s table. Taggart looks a good player, but 2014/15 was literally a lost year so he has to hit the ground running or he’ll simply run out of time. As it stands he’s 5th choice striker going into 2015/16, so something will have to change before he gets any game time, the first thing of which has to be a return to fitness in time for pre-season.

16. Tiago Casasola, Centre Back
Age: 19
2014/15 Apps: 0
Performance Grade: N/A
Potential: Unknown
Analysis: Well, what do we know about Casasola? He signed from Boca Juniors on a 3 year deal and he plays for Argentina’s Under-20s. Apart from this we know very little about him. Named in the first team squad but never appeared, he sounds a prize prospect. Whether we will ever see him in the first team remains to be seen. He could have a sky-high ceiling, but until we see him play he’s a high risk pick.

17. Thomas Eisfeld, Midfield
Age: 22
2014/15 Apps: 9
Performance Grade: C
Potential: C+
Analysis: German midfielder Eisfeld arrived from Arsenal’s academy amidst much excitement. Unfortunately he never lived up to the hype and ended the season on loan at German second division side Bochum. When he did play for Fulham he didn’t look particularly good, but the sample size was very small. At 22 he doesn’t have much time left to make a good impression and I’d be surprised if he’s with the team come September.

18. Ryan Williams, Right midfield
Age: 21
2014/15 Apps: 3
Performance Grade: D
Potential: C+
Analysis: Aussie winger Williams’ best accomplishment this season was looking like a pirate. 3 appearances in the first team was all he had under Magath before being farmed out to Barnsley. He was played out of position as a defensive midfielder by Magath so he’s another who never really had a chance in his proper spot. Will he get that chance at Fulham? Doubtful.

Part 2 of the FFC Draft: Notable Players below the first team

19. Ange Freddy Plumain, Attacking Midfield
20. Liam Donnelly, Centre back/defensive midfield
21. Larnell Cole, Midfield
22. Jordan Evans, Left Back
23. Josh Passley, Right Back
24. Magnus Norman, Goalkeeper
25. Marek Rodak, Goalkeeper
26. Jonathan Buatu, Centre Back
27. Stephen Arthurworry, Centre Back
28. Solomon Sambou, Central Midfield
29. Josh Smile, Midfield
30. Luca De La Torre, Central Midfield
31. Mesca, Attacking Midfield/Winger
32. Raheem Sheckleford, Right Back

COYWs