The club has built a side over many years to strike for a premiership in the next two-to-three seasons, before the expansion sides Greater Western Sydney and Gold Coast mature.
But the midfield is still lacking one or two options, and doesn't have a depth to match the best sides in the competition consistently. That has been clear in losses to Hawthorn, Geelong and the Sydney Swans this season.
Brendon Goddard has been a terrific addition through free agency this season but without captain Jobe Watson recently, the Bombers' midfield looked a little shallow, and Watson turns 29 next year.
Being stripped of draft picks as part of the punishment for the club's supplement scandal hurts.
The 2013 NAB AFL Draft is full of midfielders, and with their first pick – which was to be No.12 had the Bombers stayed seventh on the ladder – Essendon would have been able to get a very good one.
Losing that selection, plus their second round pick at this year's draft and next year as well, will be damaging. Particularly as most recruiters do not view it as a deep draft.
But the fact they managed to get an end-of-first round selection in 2014 eases that pain, as does the ability to trade in to the draft. Essentially, this will end up being about pick 18 or 19.
The Bombers' recruiting team, led by Adrian Dodoro, has not missed a beat in recent seasons with early selections.
In 2008, Michael Hurley and David Zaharakis were the club's first two choices. A year later, they got Jake Melksham and Jake Carlisle with picks 10 and 24.
Dyson Heppell arrived in 2010, Elliott Kavanagh and Jackson Merrett are talented and the club boosted its midfield stocks with the duo in 2011, before Joe Daniher was taken as a father-son selection last year.
They have also shown they can find players from different avenues.
Last year Nick Kommer was plucked from the WAFL as mature-ager and he has cemented a spot in the senior side. Michael Hibberd and Mark Baguley have come from Frankston's VFL side, Stewart Crameri also from the state league, and Tom Bellchambers as a pre-season draft selection.
Their recruiting department is well resourced, organised and more ready for what is to come than the last time this happened to Essendon, in 1999.
Then the club was fined $600,000 ($250,000 suspended) for salary-cap breaches, and excluded from the first two rounds of the national draft, as well as the full pre-season and rookie drafts.
It didn't hurt them, with successive Grand Final appearances in 2000-01, but hit home in the middle of the decade, after some selections in the following years didn't work out.
This time over there are other avenues to get assets in.
With a number of valuable players out of contract at the end of the season, they could trade them out for a pick to get back in the draft. Tayte Pears and Cale Hooker have currency, as do Bellchambers and Crameri, if the Bombers were desperate.
Free agency is another option if there is room in the salary cap.
Off the field, the $2 million fine will sting.
The club spent a significant portion of the 2011-12 period asking supporters, fans and coterie members for donations for its move to its Tullamarine base. That spruiking stopped this year, with the club's focus on other issues.
Chairman Paul Little even noted "from a cash flow point of view" it could not have come at a worse time.
Neither could the draft penalties as the Bombers move into their premiership window.