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TST Roundtable: Which 5 Players are Safest with a New Regime?

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NFL: San Francisco 49ers at Los Angeles Rams Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

As the 2016 NFL season draws to a close this weekend, one of our staffers (RamBuck) brought an interesting question to light. If a completely new regime is brought in - I.E. Les Snead is canned - which five players on the Los Angeles Rams roster are ‘untouchable’?

The only other stipulation was that pending free agents could not be listed as they may not be retained. That means CB Trumaine Johnson, WRs Kenny Britt and Brian Quick, SS T.J. McDonald, and KR/RB Benny Cunningham (among others) were not able to be listed.

Some of the results are pretty much what you’d expect, but there were some interesting responses as well. Some staffers preferred to justify their selections, other just kept to the nitty gritty. Take a look:

Brandon Bate (@NoPlanB_)

  1. Aaron Donald
  2. Jared Goff
  3. Todd Gurley
  4. Tavon Austin
  5. Johnny Hekker

seattlerams (@seattlerams_nfl)

  1. Aaron Donald
  2. Todd Gurley
  3. Jared Goff
  4. Tavon Austin
  5. DT Michael Brockers

RamBuck (@lannyosu)

  1. Aaron Donald
  2. Michael Brockers
  3. Jared Goff
  4. Todd Gurley
  5. Johnny Hekker

Eric Nagel (@Eric_nagel)

  1. Aaron Donald
  2. Johnny Hekker
  3. Todd Gurley
  4. Jared Goff
  5. RB/KR Benny Cunningham

Sorry Eric, gotta nix Bambam. He’s a pending free agent.

Misone (@MightyOrMisone)

  1. Aaron Donald
  2. Jared Goff
  3. Tavon Austin
  4. Todd Gurley
  5. Robert Quinn
  6. Kenny Britt

Here’s what Misone had to say about his selections:

Yes, they are in order from most likely to least likely. And yes, that means Gurley is fourth most important. Here's why:

Aaron Donald can make an argument for being the best player in the league. He's certainly top five, and almost anyone you ask will say top 10. Jared Goff is a QB that has a lot of upside. Coaches prefer to have a team with a future at QB more than any other position. The value is greater.

Tavon Austin just signed a huge contract. Maybe not big in overall value, but the dollars to be paid are too high to cut him loose. You'd have to find a trade partner. Which isn't impossible and actually could happen.

Gurley's struggles aren't all attributes to the run blocking. He's not breaking tackles nearly as much, he's running with less vision, and no patience. In 28 games, he's only rushed for over 100 yards five times. He's essentially riding a wave of hype created from his first four games.

Quinn is the best of what's left. Still a terror off the edge when healthy. The issue is, he hasn't been healthy for more than 9 games over the last two seasons. Kenny Britt has been productive with the Rams regardless of the QB situation. That in itself is impressive. It's even more impressive considering he gained 1000 yards with inconsistent QB play and terrible offensive play calling.

Surely a coach will look at this and smile thinking they can do a better job and wondering what he does with them at the helm.

Eddie Perez (@iAmEddieP_)

  1. Aaron Donald
  2. Michael Brockers
  3. Tavon Austin
  4. Todd Gurley
  5. Jared Goff

Blaine Grisak (@bxgrisak1993)

  1. Aaron Donald
  2. Alec Ogletree
  3. Johnny Hekker

This may be taking the easy way out, but in all honesty I think these are the only three players who are 100% safe. Whoever takes over is going to have no draft capital.

After the year Gurley has had, Rams could try to trade him. Trent Richardson did get a first round pick a few years ago and it’s possible to find running backs in the mid-late rounds. Goff will have no connection to the new regime. If he struggles, he wont be cut because of the cap penalty, but he could certainly be traded as well. Tavon Austin is another player who could be traded to a team that needs a Percy Harvin-like player.

Obviously the Rams arent going to trade or cut Gurley, Austin, and Goff, but I can’t see a scenario in which they are 100% safe in the new regime. Meanwhile, Hekker is one of the best punters in the history of the league, Donald is one of the best defensive players right now, and Ogletree, while a small linebacker, is the best linebacker in a very thin linebacker group.

Sean Wilkinson (@Papa_Lurch)

  1. Aaron Donald
  2. Johnny Hekker
  3. Jared Goff
  4. Todd Gurley
  5. Tavon Austin

I’m not usually one to go with the consensus, but given the contracts and the status of the Rams offense I think this is the way you have to do.

Donald is an absolute monster. He’s safe on every single NFL roster right now. The Rams have some work to do in order to show Donald that signing an extension in Los Angeles is the right move for him, but you don’t let a player like Donald get away.

Hekker is in the same boat as Donald. He’s the best punter in the NFL right now and his success is crucial to the team’s success given the dearth of offensive production. It’s odd to say that a punter is one of the five safest members of the team, but it’s easy to look at Hekker as #2 right behind Donald given his dominance.

Goff is safe for two reasons. First, because he was drafted #1 overall and carries a fully guaranteed contract. The other reason is simply because the Rams have no one else to play at QB even if they wanted too.

Gurley and Tavon may as well be listed together, because I believe that neither will be fully successful without the other. Gurley’s most dominant games were when defenses had to respect Tavon stretching the field laterally. The jet sweep action worked extremely well when the Rams implemented it. But without defenses having to account for that in 2016, Gurley’s performance has suffered.

Recap

Jared Goff and Todd Gurley were looked at as a near consensus, with Aaron Donald rightfully sitting at the top of each and every list. Those are the clear building blocks for this franchise moving forward.

Tavon Austin, Johnny Hekker, and Michael Brockers followed right behind those leading three and would nicely round out the core of this team. The challenge for Rams brass this offseason is hiring a coaching staff that can use these players to field a competent NFL team on Sundays next fall.