- Eric D. Williams, ESPN Staff Writer
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SAN DIEGO -- As San Diego Chargers coach Mike McCoy likes to say, they selected pass-rusher Kyle Emanuel in the fifth round of this year's draft for a reason, believing his production in college translates to impact plays at the next level.
At North Dakota State Emanuel dominated, totaling 19.5 sacks his senior season as the Bison took home their fourth straight Football Championship Subdivision title.
Now, Emanuel has to prove he can produce similar results against the much more athletic offensive tackles he'll face in the NFL.
Emanuel also will have to make a tough transition from defensive end at North Dakota State to outside linebacker for the Chargers, something he's been training for since his college season ended.
"Almost every team I talked to said they were looking at me as some kind of linebacker," Emanuel said. "Even a 4-3 team I talked to said I'd be a Mike or a Sam. Basically, since I went to the Shrine game in Florida, I've been preparing to change into a linebacker."
More important, he'll have to carve out a role as a special teams contributor to earn a spot on the final roster.
Emanuel said he played mostly defensive end for North Dakota State, so the transition will not be an easy one. However, easing that transition is the presence of new Chargers linebackers coach Mike Nolan.
"He's a great teacher," Emanuel said about Nolan. "He explains it well. He doesn't assume we know anything. For a guy that played defensive end in college, that's something that really helps me. He's patient with us, and he helps us learn. And I'm looking forward to working with him."
The Chargers are thin at outside linebacker, and need Emanuel to prove he can play at this level in order to fill out the back end of their roster at an important position. Currently, the Chargers have eight outside linebackers on the 90-man roster, but only four with NFL experience in Melvin Ingram, Jeremiah Attaochu, Cordarro Law and Tourek Williams.
Emanuel looked the part at rookie minicamp last week, appearing to move well and get off the ball quickly during individual work and team drills.
At 6-3 and 255 pounds, Emanuel put up decent numbers at the scouting combine in Indianapolis. He ran a 4.77-second, 40-yard time, along with posting a 34-inch vertical jump and bench pressing 225 pounds 27 times.
So now it's a matter of Emanuel transferring that athleticism to consistent production on the field, something Chargers general manager Tom Telesco believes the North Dakota State product can accomplish.
"He has good size," Telesco said about Emanuel after the draft. "He's tough, instinctive and obviously was highly productive. He has really good first-step quickness -- which pass rushers need at this level -- and a good feel for it. We see him as an outside linebacker right now.
"The big thing for him is he dominated the competition at his level, which is what you have to do to be able to make it in this league. And then when they played Division I schools, which they went 4-0 against Division I schools, he played very well in those games."
Kyle Emanuel has to prove he can produce similar collegiate results against the much more athletic offensive tackles he'll face in the NFL.