The renovation of the Denver Broncos is in full swing. The coaching staff, for the most part, was gutted and replaced with fresh, young minds.
The front office was next in line for a change.
With the dismissal of Jim and Jeff Goodman, the Broncos appointed a solid general manager in Brian Xanders.
As with new head coach Josh McDaniels, Xanders brings a new and fresh look to the player personnel department, and the two hope to mold the Denver Broncos into champions.
The expectations being placed on them are high, and their first task—the one that will set the tone for their (hopefully) long and successful careers in Denver—is fast approaching.
Those events are the NFL Scouting Combine and the NFL Draft.
The draft is quite possibly the most important team building event in all of professional sports. The top college players make immediate impacts on the teams they join and a bust pick can result in an unsuccessful season.
This is the first time in 14 years that Mike Shanahan won't be seen on draft day. Neither will the Goodmans. It is a new sensation in Broncos Country—two men in their 30s running the team.
For Xanders and McDaniels, the 2009 draft will be integral to the team's success. Defensively, the Broncos need help. Mike Shanahan always had a knack for finding offensive talent, but was less successful in recent years on the defensive side of the ball.
On offense, of the 11 players on the field in a standard "I" formation, nine were drafted by the Broncos. Center Casey Wiegmann and tight end Daniel Graham are the only offensive starters brought in by free agency.
Nearly the entire offensive line—the best in the NFL in 2008—was brought in by Shanahan.
Last year's class consisted of Ryan Clady, Eddie Royal, Peyton Hillis, Spencer Larsen, Josh Barrett, Jack Williams, and Ryan Torain.
Offensively, these two classes rank among the best ever.
On defense, Shanahan's only bright points are linebacker D.J. Williams and defensive end Elvis Dumervil. Many fans see 2007 rookies Tim Crowder and Jarvis Moss as busts, but neither has had the chance to make any impact in the 4-3 system. Josh Barrett has also shown good potential.
Now, however, there will be new faces making the picks. These men will have Shanahan's glowing offensive draft record to build upon. They must create their own defensive draft records.
It is predicted that USC standout linebacker Rey Maualuga will become a Bronco in the first round. From that point on, the calls will be in the hands of Josh and Brian.
They know what the team needs, and Broncos Country is counting on them to do what Shanahan couldn't over the past few years—build a defensive unit that can stop opponents.
Free agency will play a role, and this year's defensive class is good, but ultimately, the success of the Broncos defense in 2009 will rest on the impact rookies brought in on April 25 and 26.
Of course, the team's needs are not exclusively defensive. The Broncos need a running back to be the workhorse, and they need a slot receiver to eventually replace the aging, but sure-handed Brandon Stokley.
McDaniels has made it clear that he will be sparing no one. He is going to look at every player on the roster and make sure that player fits his role.
The team's owner, Pat Bowlen, has shown complete confidence in McDaniels and Xanders, similar to the confidence he had in Mike Shanahan for 14 years.
Now, it is time for Xanders and McDaniels to step up to the proverbial plate, and hit a home run for the Denver Broncos and their fans.
It's time to win again in Denver. The draft is the first giant step.