North Dakota State's Kyle Emanuel had one job playing for the Bison; create havoc in the backfield. Emanuel initiated his stellar career playing all 15 games as a freshman while recording 3.5 sacks and a forced fumble. The sack total reached seven on the season in 2013 and the former LB was primed for a breakout 2014 campaign.
Stellar would be an understatement to articulate how Emanuel performed his senior year. The Nebraska native regularly made offensive tackles lose leverage and balance, and few could operate one on one holding off the Bison's defensive weapon in 2014.
The disrupting traits Emanuel possessed showed up consistently in games. His 19.5 total sacks topped all player in Division I, while his 97 tackles more than doubled his previous career high. The converted linebacker was on the NFL map. Emanuel participated as a defensive lineman at the 2015 Combine, but was graded as an OLB. He finished third with 27 reps on the bench press and was a solid drill performer at the event.
While the FCS statistical monster didn't perform standard drills at NDSU's Pro Day, according to walterfootball.com, he did show off his versatility. Emanuel worked out at both defensive end and outside linebacker. Three NFL teams came away enticed by the edge rusher's performance.
Per Football Insiders, the Pittsburgh Steelers, Philadelphia Eagles and Minnesota Vikings gave Emanuel a private workout and could use his nonstop motor in passing downs. In an interview with Steelers Depot on his biggest strength, Emanuel talked about his motor and effort as his best asset as a prospect.
Emanuel's relentlessness is just one enticing trait that Emanuel offers to NFL teams as the reigning sack champion. Given his experience at both LB and DE, he gives teams plenty of options to utilize him all over the field. With a plethora of NFL teams in a constant flux of defensive alignments, Emanuel gives you that stability in either 4-3 or 3-4 schemes.
The former Bison steamrolled through FBS competition as well. Emanuel totaled three sacks against Big 12 members Iowa State and Kansas State silencing doubts over his inability to conquer heightened competition. It also doesn't hurt that he's played for the juggernauts of the FCS who have won the past three titles. As a Bison, he's bred to know how to win once he enters the NFL.
While the motor is constantly evident, Emanuel's lack of athleticism could be the crutch that disables the big man from getting to the quarterback on a consistent basis at the next level. The difference in technique, size and mobility is drastically different in FCS O-Lineman compared to the NFL's surplus of talent. He'll need to develop a go-to counter move in order to get to the QB in passing situations.
Emanuel also hasn't had substantial game action covering slot receivers or tight ends. As a 3-4 OLB, he'll have to be asked to handle athletic pass catchers that will separate from a converted 4-3 DE. However, the former 4.0 GPA high school student-athlete has the intelligence to comprehend exotic 3-4 packages and blitzes. In comparison, he'll have an easier time adjusting as a 4-3 EDGE at the next level in his rookie season.
Emanuel takes his elite college production, nonstop motor and winning pedigree to the next level as a late round option. In a stacked pass rushing class filled with athletic marvels, the NDSU product comes with the "safe" label as a prospect. He didn't blow up the combine, but Emanuel improved his stock showcasing his versatility in the offseason.
Winning the Buck Buchanan Award as the FCS Defensive Player of the Year, the hardware will continue to pile up if Emanuel lands on a playoff caliber team and accumulates sacks early in his career. Along with RB John Crockett, two Bison have a realistic chance to be selected in the 2015 NFL Draft. However, Emanuel could be the FCS steal teams will be intrigued with and have on their radar.