St. Louis Rams - Core Players to Build On

EARTH CITY, MO - JANUARY 17: New head coach Jeff Fisher of the St. Louis Rams addresses the media during a press conference at the Russell Training Center on January 17, 2012 in Earth City, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

Since the subject of the day seems to be the draft and player value, it made me think of Rams players and their individual worth to the team. The obvious "High value" players are Sam Bradford, Robert Quinn, James Laurinaitis, Chris Long and Harvey Dahl. These top four are followed closely by Steven Jackson and, more than likely, a health Danny Amendola. Quintin Mikell retains his 2011 value. After these six players, there are injured players like Bradley Fletcher, who has a vague value at this point. Rodger Safford holds a median value at this point too, due to his 2011 "sophmore slump". Jason Smith has been mentioned as trade-able, but unless a playoff contender is in desperate need of a lukewarm body at offensive tackle, the cost to benefit ratio is very low. As much as I'm disappointed by Smith's play, available replacements for him would make trading him for a draft pick in the 6th or 7th round range less attractive.

There is a steep drop off after the aforementioned players. Some may think Hendricks has earned an innate value to date, but as a rookie with a sub-par performance, I doubt he holds his original second round appraisal. Brandon Gibson may garner interest from teams with marginal #2 or #3 WRs, but it would be a stretch to think anyone would extend anything above a 6th or 7th round pick on a player who has never done anything of true remark.

So let's all play General manager for a moment, and appraise what assets you have to build the Rams into a winning team. The first thing I'd do is establish my "Don't even think about it" list of guys who have to be a part of the team going forward. My top player list that can't be touched is : Bradford, Laurinaitis, Long, Dahl, Safford, Mikell, Kendricks. A team has to have a core, and these are mine as of now. Jackson would make my list if he had fewer NFL miles on him.

Some of you may be shocked that Danny Amendola doesn't make my core group? I've been, and will continue to be, a strong supporter and fan of Amendola. But I've come to believe if Sam Bradford is going to step up, he needs to take the training wheels off at some point. I think Sam checks down too quickly to his "Danny Amendola comfort zone". Just my opinion, but take the option away, and Sam will have to think in a different way than he did last season after Danny's injury. He needs to not "run home" to the three or four yard pass as much as he does. He needs his thinking paradigm to expand to reach the next level. Yes, Danny would no doubt be a star on another team, but we have to decide what kind of team we want going forward. Passes beyond the 8 yard range has to become the norm and rule, not completions for completions sake.

When all is said and done, the Rams trade shelves are pretty bare, aren't they? The recent acquisitions of Finnegan, Langford and Dunbar speak to me of a team building toward a more established core group of players, not adding depth. The 2012 NFL Draft will add to the baseline needs of a Rams team in transition; building each position a step at a time.

Jeff Fisher strikes me as a very methodical guy. He isn't a chess player, thinking four or five moves ahead. Instead, I think Fisher is a coach with a very defined opinion on certain position on a football team. His draft history, shown in this great article by TST's own Ramsaddiction, leads me to believe defense carries great weight in his overall list of importance, while the offense demands few key pieces to which he's willing to commit high value draft assets.

So what are your core players? If you were the Rams GM/Head Coach, and Stan Kroenke told you to keep 12 players and lose the rest, who would you keep and why?

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