This is by no means a scientific study...There is no math and there will not be a test at the end. This is just an observation by a more than casual fan who still has a great deal to learn about the game.
Some parts of this post are just re-statements of posts I've made in other threads, so if something looks like you've read before, you probably have. On a personal/informational note: I've been a Broncos' fan since the late '70s when I was but a youngster & my FootBall Hero was and still is Randy Gradishar.
After reading and participating in some of the threads here pertaining to draft picks & FAs I thought I'd look up the last SB winning Team the Broncos put on the field. Many of us know and are familiar with Rod Smith, UFA, Terrell Davis a 6th rndr etc. Look at the roster and see how many 1st rnd picks we had on offense and how many on defense. Of interest is Undrafted FA, RT Tony Jones who, silenced Reggie White in the SB against GB.
We also know how valuable Eddie Mac, Smith & Sharpe were in the both the running & passing game. Shanahan put together a great offensive staff with Alex Gibbs (OL), Mike Heimerdinger(WRs) & Bobby Turner(RBs) who got the most out of these players.
Greg Robinson was a very good DC, who put together a very good defense and it helped that in most games, the other teams were playing from behind...Something we hope to duplicate this year with Manning.
Link to 1998 Roster
Now, look at the Team Denver put on the field last year. We no longer have Bunkley or Tebow, and Moreno may or may not be here & the draft picks of Tebow-Moreno in the 1st are, at best, questionable. I think legitimately we can count Champ as a true #1 pick as well as Von Miller. I am not sure that Ayers has played to his draft pick...Link to 2011 Roster
Now, the biggest difference that I can see after only a cursory look is the '98 DL, which I think can be safely argued was much better than what we have now.
Points being: Let us not assume that we need to go out and sign/draft the fastest WR on the market. He will be over-priced and something of a luxury for this team. We honestly don't know the ceilings of Decker & Thomas and I think we all know why and really not need to be rehashed. We now have a 1st rnd future HOF QB which is huge. Manning will make these guys better; they are hungry and ready to get started.
We have a decent OL, anchored by All-Pro LT Ryan Clady, that got better as the season went on under some difficult scheme changes.
So, if we look at the number of 1st rnd players from the two teams, we are not that far away. Obviously we need to address the DL as we will not win big without some better talent upfront. Denver has the pass rushers in Von-Doom and I think the most pressing need right now is DTs.
Another thing in our favor is that Elway played on those '97-'98 teams and knew the players and what round they were drafted in. If you listen to those former players like Schlereth, Sharpe, Smith, Davis et. al,the common theme was that they were all in, had a great chemistry in the Locker Room and they played for each other. Point being, this is a relatively young team with a few extremely talented veterans in Champ, Dawkins if he comes back, McGahee & Manning & we need to be careful who we bring in. I think this past season has shown with teams like the Eagles that bringing in a load of talent doesn't guarantee success.
So, We have and Exec in Elway who manages like he played...TO WIN, we have a stable Coaching Staff and Del Rio is arguably an upgrade over Allen and I doubt the scheme will change that much as Coach Fox was intimately involved in that. Mike McCoy will work with Manning on a playbook that will get the most out of all our players.
With the signing of Manning, we have FAs who showed an interest in coming to Denver & most have been signed...Things are looking up and I don't think we are that far away...I am excited about this upcoming season & we haven't even made it to the Draft.