The Chris Creighton Eastern Michigan Eagles have been taking consistent steps forward over the last five seasons, but the roster has not been rich with NFL talent. From 2017 to 2021, the Eagles have gone 27-30 overall and 17-21 in the MAC, and those records are very real growth for Eastern Michigan.
Along the way, Eastern Michigan has had two players selected in the NFL draft. Maxx Crosby was selected in the 2019 draft, and Pat O’Connor was selected in 2017.
High-end talent is the next step to take the Eagles from the middle of the MAC West to the MAC Championship Game.
MAC teams usually have some of their players sign with NFL teams as undrafted free agents a couple stick around on practice squads, but the Eagles have had only one in the last five draft classes. Offensive guard Andrew Wylie signed with the Indianapolis Colts at the close of the 2017 NFL Draft and has bounced around to the Browns, Chargers and Chiefs.
Since landing in Kansas City, Wylie has played in 54 of a possible 65 games and started in 42 of them.
It’s possible that the Eagles as a program are undervalued by the NFL franchises due to their decades of relative futility, but their recent draft successes could open the door at some point.
It’ll be tough hill to climb, however, as after the 2021 NFL Draft, no players from Eastern Michigan were drafted or signed as free agents. 2022 is to be determined, but the successes of their last five drafts could make some teams pause and reconsider bringing on an Eagle.
We go over the carerrs of the two currently active NFL Draft picks to come out of Ypsi over the last five years:
EDGE Maxx Crosby
Drafted: 2019, fourth round, 106th overall, Las Vegas Raiders
Maxx Crosby stands alone for the Eagles in the NFL. The Raiders selected him with the fourth pick of the fourth round in the 2019 draft and has been every bit the force he was with the Eagles.
He was recruited out of Colleyville, Texas, to Ypsilanti, Michigan, and took a redshirt season. During the next three seasons with the Eagles he amassed 41 tackles for loss and 20 sacks. His ability to get to the quarterback created eight fumbles and one recovery for a touchdown.
His six-foot-five height, 247 lb. frame out of college had him aligned more as a linebacker than a defensive end, but his skill set is definitely a pass rusher.
Once in the NFL, Crosby went to work proving he was the best asset the Raiders defense has. As a Raider, he has started 43 of the 49 games he has appeared in and has 25 total sacks over three seasons. He had 10 sacks in his rookie season and that earned him second place in voting for the AP Defensive Player of the Year award. Nick Bosa ran away with the voting, despite Crosby having arguably better numbers.
In 2021, Crosby’s sack numbers decreased slightly, but his pressures increased by 30% and his quarterback knockdowns ballooned from an average of 5 to 19 in 2021. At the end of the season, he was named to the Pro Bowl and to the Pro Football Focus All-Pro Team.
In early March, the Raiders and Crosby agreed to a four year contract extension that added $95 million, and $53 million guaranteed, to his current deal.
Despite EMU’s lack of drafted NFL talent, one of the two is a centerpiece for the Las Vegas Raiders defense.
DL Pat O’Connor
Drafted: 2017, seventh round, 250th overall, Detroit Lions
Pat O’Connor was selected by the Detroit Lions with the 32nd pick in the seventh round of the 2017 NFL Draft. He signed a four-year deal with them, but ultimately never played a down for them.
After being released from the Detroit practice squad, he signed with the Tampa Bay practice squad. They activated O’Connor a month and a half later and he appeared in three games in 2017.
His time with the Buccaneers since then has bounced between the active roster and the practice squad, but O’Connor has played in 29 games over the last two seasons. He saw playing time as a special teams specialist, and 30 to 50 defensive snaps a season.
His 2021 season ended with a serious knee injury, but the Bucs signed him to a contract in 2022 for $1.19 million with $350K guaranteed.
O’Connor was recruited to Eastern Michigan from Saint Rita High School in Chicago and played four seasons at Eastern Michigan on their defensive line. He produced 20 sacks, 34 tackles for loss and forced seven fumbles.
His solid production and NFL size convinced the Lions to take a late flier on him, and he’s still making it work in the NFL.