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Glenn Dorsey returned to LSU for his senior season, helping lead the Tigers to the national championship.


Glenn Dorsey concludes his visit with the St. Louis Rams on Wednesday along with 25 other draft hopefuls. Darren McFadden is in the group.

In a draft with more questions than answers at the top, I find this clear: Tackle Dorsey is the most explosive and dominating defensive player and running back McFadden is the most explosive, dominating offensive player.

Draft series

NFL.com's 10-part series looks at each position in the draft.

Thursday, April 10: QBs | Rankings
Friday, April 11: RBs | Rankings
Saturday, April 12: TEs | Rankings
Sunday, April 13: OL | Rankings
Monday, April 14: WRs | Rankings
Tuesday, April 15: DEs | Rankings
Wednesday, April 16: DTs | Rankings
Thursday, April 17: LBs | Rankings
Friday, April 18: CBs | Rankings
Saturday, April 19: Safeties | Rankings

If I were making the No. 1 selection in Miami, one of these two players would be the pick.

If Miami, indeed, makes Michigan offensive tackle Jake Long the No. 1 choice based as much on need as on analysis, then the Rams selecting at No. 2 should swipe either Dorsey or McFadden.

That simple.

If the Rams make their decision primarily based on need, then LSU’s Dorsey is the clear choice at No. 2.

Rams president John Shaw was presented this scenario.

"Our football people make the picks," Shaw said. "All I can tell you is we see Dorsey as one of the top three or four players in the draft. And when I talk to our football people, Dorsey is always in the mix of the discussion. Clearly, selecting him is not a reach."

And that would be a good thing for the league’s stated preference that juniors return to colleges for their senior seasons.

Dorsey did that. He could have easily bolted for the draft a year ago and likely would have been a top five pick. Dorsey played through knee and back injuries his senior season and won the national championship plus the Outland, Lombardi, Nagurski and Lott awards that marked him the stellar defensive player in the land. He finished with 64 tackles (11 for losses) and six sacks.

NFL Draft: Defensive tackles

Pat Kirwan's take: The NFL defensive line has become as specialized as any other position, and in many ways the most specialized because of all the different fronts teams play.

There are 4-3 defenses looking for one-gap penetrators inside, there are 4-3 teams looking for wide body tackles to eat up three blockers, like the Ravens had when Tony Siragusa and Sam Adams kept blockers off Ray Lewis. There are 3-4 fronts looking for the biggest men possible to man the nose tackle spot, and there are 3-4 coaches looking for defensive linemen who can slant. Ranking all the tackles without knowing a team's position needs is tough, but I will stack the board the way I think they will come off on draft day.

There is no doubt that this draft has two elite defensive tackles in Glenn Dorsey and Sedrick Ellis. Both fit nicely as "three-technique" tackles playing over a guard in a 4-3 one-gap front. After those two players, things get a little cloudy. There may be another defensive tackle taken in the first round (Kentwan Balmer from North Carolina) but after the top three tackles things fall off quickly. The team that needs a two-gapping nose tackle with lots of bulk may grade a guy like Red Bryant (Texas A&M) higher than a DeMarrio Pressley (N.C. State) or Carlton Powell (Virginia Tech), both of whom fit nicely in a 4-3 as an under tackle. Pay less attention to the player ranking and look to see if the guy fits the scheme your team operates this season.

» Kirwan: Top defensive tackles
» Draft Tracker: Defensive linemen in draft

But that extra year of analysis he provided coupled with his injuries gave NFL teams too much to ponder. Dorsey entered his senior season the clear favorite to become this draft’s top pick. Then NFL teams became paralyzed with their analysis. He fell out of favor, out of the top position, suddenly a gamble due to injury, height and stamina concerns.

Dorsey with his recent workouts has flipped that.

"And some of these teams finally popped the tape back in and watched the player he is," said his agent, Joel Segal. "They finally got back to letting the performance and production tell the story."

If Dorsey (6-foot-2, 316-pounds) were to slip in this draft, it would send the wrong message to future college juniors contemplating draft entry. Many of them as juniors already strike when it is hot. Nearly all of them would if they see a player of this caliber penalized in the draft rather than rewarded for his return.

One NFL general manager, requesting anonymity, spoke with passion on this subject:

"Everybody talked about him being hurt as a senior. But he never missed a game or a practice. That’s a really tough kid. A really clean, great kid. He’s not real tall. If you want to nit-pick, that would be the thing; maybe bigger, experienced offensive linemen will jump on top of him. But even with that, he has long arms that can help offset that. Never missing a practice? That speaks volumes to the guy’s character, especially when you consider he was the big man on campus. There is so much going on up there at the top of the draft with guys who are not clean, who have blemishes up and down in their game. It would not surprise me if most teams have Dorsey rated the No. 1 player on their boards."

Dorsey to the Rams at No. 2 makes sense in that the Rams last year drafted nose tackle Adam Carriker with the 13th overall selection. Using a second, consecutive draft on the team's shaky defensive line is a firm way to address a severe problem. And, given the Giants fresh defensive-line-inspired Super Bowl run, every NFL team seeks more contribution from its defensive line. It is the hot-button group for all teams in the 2008 season.

Dorsey at age three had to wear braces for a year because his legs were so bowed. Doctors wondered if he would ever walk naturally. He overcame that in Gonzales, La., and traveled only 20 or so miles from his hometown to LSU.

He hears footsteps. USC tackle Sedrick Ellis is turning heads as the draft approaches. So is Virginia end Chris Long and Ohio State end Vernon Gholston. Boston College quarterback Matt Ryan is intriguing. McFadden is a blur.

Any of these players could surpass Dorsey in draft order.

But the team that does that is out-thinking itself.

Keep it simple. Trust the production, the impact of the player.

Dorsey is the top defensive lineman in this draft. He is the top defensive player. And his case for being the top player overall is still worth the debate.

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