KANSAS CITY -- Kansas City Chiefs head coach Herm Edwards told rookie defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey one key thing when Dorsey started his NFL career last month: Ignore the comparisons. Yes, Dorsey has the potential to be as dynamic as Warren Sapp, who recently retired from Oakland as one of the most productive defensive tackles in league history. Dorsey also was a high first-round pick, just like Sapp was back in 1995. But as Edwards said, "I told him, 'You're not Warren Sapp. So just go out there and be yourself.'"
It was the kind of advice Dorsey needed to hear, and he'd be the first to admit that. Though he didn't end up becoming the first pick in this year's draft -- the Chiefs selected him fifth overall after several draft analysts labeled Dorsey the best prospect in this year's class --- he still might have as much impact as anybody taken before him. That's because Dorsey didn't just fall to a Kansas City team that never imagined he'd be available so late in the process, he also plopped right into the best possible defense for a man of his vast ability.
But the comparisons to Sapp are likely to keep coming.
The Chiefs play the same cover-2 scheme that turned Sapp into a big-time star for Tampa Bay in the late 1990s. In a system that requires a ton of talent up the middle –- particularly at linebacker and safety -– the foundation is unquestionably the "3-technique" defensive tackle. The player who occupies that role has to excel at pass-rushing, blowing up blocking schemes and wreaking havoc. Edwards was an assistant coach with the Bucs when Sapp arrived, so he knows the value of adding a player who can be so disruptive.
As for Dorsey, he's watched players like Sapp and Chicago Bears defensive tackle Tommie Harris throughout his football career. He smiles every time he thinks about the possibilities of playing a similar role in Kansas City. "I can't wait to play in it," said Dorsey after the Chiefs finished their first week of organized team activities Thursday. "I don't have to hold up double-teams anymore. I can use my athleticism to get after the quarterback and make tackles in the backfield. I'm not saying it's going to be easy, but I'll have a good time [with the role]."
The other good news for Dorsey is that he won't have to make much of a transition to his new job. Though he primarily was asked to occupy blockers during his past two years at LSU, he did start his college career as a player whose main task was to penetrate and make plays in the backfield. The Tigers also changed their defense so much last season that Dorsey still had a chance to do more than just read and react to offenses. Remember, he finished with seven sacks last season, which is a respectable number for an interior lineman.
Edwards said it's hard to find defensive tackles who offer that kind of versatility and are capable of succeeding in the 3-technique role. Most college programs either turn out mammoth run-stuffers or undersized interior pass-rushers these days. It's rare to come across a player with Dorsey's combination of size (6-2, 316-pounds) and agility, and Edwards claims the rookie already has impressive power and a strong knowledge of blocking schemes.
Dorsey has so much potential that Edwards already can see the dilemmas that opponents will face. "When you get a guy like that lined up over the guard, it forces offenses to make big decisions," Edwards said. "If you double-team him, your ends are going to be really happy. If you block him one-on-one, he has the ability to get deep enough penetration that the quarterback can't step up and throw. With him and [defensive end] Tamba Hali playing on the same side, we can do a lot of things."
Though the Chiefs have struggled with highly drafted interior linemen recently -- a group that includes Ryan Sims, a 2002 first-round pick, and second-round picks Eddie Freeman and Junior Siavii -- there is no indication that Dorsey will be overwhelmed by expectations. He said Kansas City reminds him of Baton Rouge, La., because it's an extremely laid-back community. Dorsey also isn't carrying any chips on his shoulder after four other teams passed him over in the draft. "I never expected to be a first-round pick when I was growing up," Dorsey says. "Those things don't happen where I'm from [Gonzales, La.], so this whole process has been fun for me.
"The only negative was the talk about my injury."
That would be all the pre-draft discussion about the lingering effects of two injuries (a stress fracture in his right tibia and a sprained medial collateral ligament in his right knee) that weren't even damaging enough to sideline Dorsey over his past two years at LSU. But since he didn't compete at the Senior Bowl or the NFL's scouting combine, some people speculated that he had enough red flags to keep teams like Miami, St. Louis, Atlanta and Oakland from selecting him higher. The Chiefs, however, weren't scared off by the talk. They were comfortable with Dorsey's health after their doctors examined him, and now he might anchor their defense for the next decade.
What the Chiefs understood on draft day was that Dorsey was the top player on their board and he had just fallen into their laps. The next step for Dorsey is to learn as much as possible during the offseason so he can blossom quickly in the NFL. He's already been impressed by the speed of the game -- Chiefs guard Brian Waters apparently taught Dorsey a few lessons on the size and strength of professional interior linemen during Thursday's practice -- but Dorsey said he'll adjust quickly.
After all, he already can see that there are many things for him to like about his new situation.
Jeffri Chadiha covers the NFL for ESPN.com.