MELBOURNE faces a pivotal moment in its rebuild under Paul Roos on November 25 when it will take two of the first three selections in the NAB AFL Draft.
It's vital for any club to get its top picks right but a look back at the Demons' recent draft history underlines just how important success is this year.
An analysis of any club's draft misses inevitably makes for uncomfortable reading, because no recruiting department can get every pick perfect. It's an inexact science that still frustrates the best.
However, Melbourne supporters can approach draft night with renewed confidence.
Although it's still too early for a definitive call, the Demons' strike rate looks to have improved since the end of 2012, when former Collingwood recruiter Jason Taylor took over as national recruiting manager.
Overlooking Ollie Wines for Jimmy Toumpas at No.4 in 2012 is the only selection that threatens to cost the Demons at this stage, but there is still time for Toumpas to make up the early ground conceded to his former under-18s rival.
Melbourne's record from 2006 to 2011, however, doesn't makes for such optimistic reading.
The recent departures of James Frawley, Sam Blease and James Strauss leave only 11 of Melbourne's 28 first-time NAB AFL Draft selections from that period remaining at the club.
Of those 11, defender Neville Jetta (No.51, 2008) was delisted in 2013 and retained as a rookie before earning a return to the senior list with a strong 2014 season, while utility Luke Tapscott (No.18, 2009) remains uncontracted.
And despite having a dozen picks inside the top 21 between 2006 and 2010 – more than any other club in that time – the Demons remain relatively bereft of top-liners.
Just four of those 12 top-21 picks are still at the club, and only two of those – Jack Grimes (No.14 in 2007) and Jack Watts (No.1, 2008) – played regular senior footy in 2014. Former skipper Jack Trengove (No.2, 2009) would have made it three, but for a foot injury that ruined his 2014 season and will likely spoil his 2015.
As mentioned earlier, every club has a litany of sob stories at the draft and trade table.
Fremantle's early failings (Andrew McLeod for Chris Groom, anyone?) are the stuff of legend while Richmond fans can only wonder what might have been if Matthew Pavlich and Lance Franklin, rather than Aaron Fiora and Richard Tambling, had made their way to Punt Road.
And equally, good (or poor) drafting is only part of the recipe for success. Stable administration, sufficient off-field resources and effective coaching are all part of the mix. Not all have been present at Melbourne during its recent woes, but all have been addressed.
Still, having A-grade talent to work with makes shortcomings in any of those areas far easier to manage.
MELBOURNE'S ALTERNATIVE DRAFT PICKS
James Frawley (Jack Riewoldt at No.13)
Ricky Petterd (Kurt Tippett, 32)
46. Colin Garland (Robbie Gray, 55)
Isaac Weetra (Tyson Goldsack, 63)
Cale Morton (Patrick Dangerfield, 10)
14. Jack Grimes (Callan Ward, 19)
Addam Maric (Scott Selwood, 22)
Kyle Cheney (Cale Hooker, 54)
1. Jack Watts (Nic Naitanui, 2)
Sam Blease (Luke Shuey, 18)
James Strauss (Hayden Ballantyne, 21)
Jamie Bennell (Steven Motlop, 39)
51. Neville Jetta (Michael Walters, 53)
64. Rohan Bail
Tom Scully (Dustin Martin, 3)
2. Jack Trengove (Ben Cunnington, 5)
Jordan Gysberts (Daniel Talia, 13)
18. Luke Tapscott (Nat Fyfe, 20)
34. Max Gawn (Allen Christensen, 40)
50. Jack Fitzpatrick (Taylor Duryea, 69)
Lucas Cook (Brodie Smith, 14)
33. Jeremy Howe (Luke Parker, 40)
Troy Davis (Paul Puopolo, 66)
53. Tom McDonald
Rory Taggert (Jack Newnes, 37)
Josh Tynan (Lachie Neale, 58)
James Sellar (Cameron Sutcliffe, 71)
4. Jimmy Toumpas (Ollie Wines, 7)
26. Jack Viney
48. Dean Kent
52. Matt Jones
68. Dean Terlich
9. Christian Salem
40. Jay Kennedy-Harris
57. Jayden Hunt (Tom Langdon, 65)
THEY COULD HAVE BEEN DEMONS - MELBOURNE'S ALTERNATIVE BEST 22