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Auburn Football All-Time First-Round NFL Draft Picks

Auburn football has seen the highest of highs and the lowest of lows across the past 15 years in college football. Bryan Harsin’s stint as head coach was an abject disaster, as was Gene Chizik’s final season with the Tigers.

But in 2010 the Tigers sat atop the college football mountaintop with a BCS National Championship victory over Oregon. The Tigers nearly reached the summit once again in 2013 but fell just short to Florida State.

Some of the best college football players ever hailed from Auburn, such as Cam Newton and Bo Jackson. The Tigers have seen 300 players drafted into the NFL since the draft started in 1936, including many more to the AFL. Of those 300, 32 were selected in the first round and 4 were taken No. 1 overall.

Here’s a look at the first-round selections from Auburn:

Derrick Brown 2020 7 DT Panthers
Noah Igbinoghene 2020 30 CB Dolphins
Greg Robinson 2014 2 OT Rams
Dee Ford 2014 23 DE Chiefs
Cam Newton 2011 1 QB Panthers
Nick Fairley 2011 13 DT Lions
Ben Grubbs 2007 29 G Ravens
Ronnie Brown 2005 2 RB Dolphins
Carnell Williams 2005 5 RB Bucs
Carlos Rodgers 2005 9 DB Redskins
Jason Campbell 2005 25 QB Redskins
Kendall Simmons 2002 30 G Steelers
Takeo Spikes 1998 13 LB Bengals
Victor Riley 1998 27 OT Chiefs
Willie Anderson 1996 10 OT Bengals
Wayne Gandy 1994 15 OT Rams
Aundray Bruce 1988 1 LB Falcons
Brent Fullwood 1987 4 RB Packers
Bo Jackson 1986 1 RB Raiders
Gerald Robinson 1986 14 LB Seahawks
Chris Woods 1984 28 WB Raiders
James Brooks 1981 24 RB Chargers
Reese McCall 1978 25 TE Colts
Terry Beasley 1972 19 WR 49ers
Forrest Blue 1968 15 C 49ers
Tucker Frederickson 1965 1 RB Giants
Jackie Burkett 1959 12 LB Colts
Jim Phillips 1958 5 OE Lions
Joe Childress 1956 7 HB Cardinals
Dave Middleton 1955 12 OE Lions
Travis Tidwell 1950 7 QB Giants

Keep scrolling for a look at Auburn’s No. 1 picks, as well as some of the more notable selections across Tigers football history.

Auburn No. 1 Overall Draft Picks

Cam Newton, QB — No. 1 overall, 2011 NFL Draft (Carolina Panthers)

Cam Newton is considered by many to be the greatest college football player of all time. At the very least, Newton’s 2010 season may have been the most complete of all time.

Newton passed for 2,854 yards with 30 touchdowns and 7 interceptions while also rushing for 1,473 yards and 20 touchdowns. In the process, Newton led the Auburn Tigers to a 14-0 record and their second national title (the first coming in 1957) with a win over Oregon in the BCS Championship, 22-19.

Newton was taken No. 1 overall, naturally, following the title game. He spent his first years with Carolina, taking the Panthers to the Super Bowl in 2015. Newton won the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year award in 2011, throwing for 4,000 yards in Year 1.

His efficiency fell dramatically after his 2015 Super Bowl run. Newton left Carolina after the 2019 season and failed to find a role with the New England Patriots and once again with the Panthers in 2021. Once his career was said and done, Newton had reached 3 Pro Bowls and was named the 2015 AP NFL MVP.

Aundray Bruce, LB — No. 1 overall, 1988 NFL Draft (Atlanta Falcons)

Aundray Bruce had a strong 1987 season at Auburn, being named an All-American and the Citrus Bowl MVP as Auburn downed USC, 16-7.

The linebacker’s career was absolutely plagued by expectations that he simply failed to meet, but he by no means had a bad NFL career. Bruce was selected No. 1 overall in 1988 by the Falcons and finished his NFL career with 32 sacks, 4 interceptions and 9 forced fumbles. He never finished with double-digit sack totals in a single season and failed to reach a Pro Bowl or make an NFL first-team All-Pro appearance.

In total, Bruce spent 4 years with Atlanta, 3 years with the Los Angeles Rams and 4 years with the Raiders. He saw action in 151 games across his career, with his best seasons coming in 1988 and 1989 with the Falcons.

Bo Jackson, RB — No. 1 overall, 1986 NFL Draft (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)

Bo Jackson is considered to be one of the greatest collegiate football players of all time, and he has the accolades to prove it. Jackson was the 1985 Heisman winner and earned 2 All-American nods while at Auburn. He finished his Auburn career with 4,575 all-purpose yards and 45 total touchdowns.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers took Jackson No. 1 overall despite him leaning towards pursuing a professional baseball career. The Bucs had taken Jackson for a physical months before the NFL Draft, but doing so ruled Jackson ineligible to complete his college baseball season with the Tigers.

Jackson, who insisted later that the Bucs told him the visit was legal (and believing it to be a tactic to sway him against playing baseball professionally), told the Bucs that he would refuse to play for them should they decide to draft him No. 1 overall. Tampa Bay drafted him anyway and Jackson, true to his word, declined the offer.

The Los Angeles Raiders then selected Jackson in the 7th round of the 1987 NFL Draft, with owner Al Davis receptive to Jackson’s idea to play both baseball and football. He suited up for the Raiders and Royals (thriving in both leagues) before starting to transition to the MLB for the Kansas City Royals following a devastating injury.

Jackson played the 1990 season in both the NFL with the Raiders and MLB with the Royals, earning a trip to the Pro Bowl while hitting .272 with 28 home runs and 110 hits for Kansas City. Had he not suffered a hip injury that ended his football career, he would have no doubt written even more of his incredible athletic story.

Jackson very well may be the most interesting athlete of the 1980s.

Bo Jackson.

Unknown Date; Kansas City, MO, USA; FILE PHOTO; Bo Jackson of the Kansas City Royals during the 1990 Season
at Royals Stadium. Credit: Photo By USA TODAY Sports

Tucker Frederickson, RB — No. 1 overall, 1965 NFL Draft (New York Giants)

Tucker Frederickson is a College Football Hall of Fame member, a consensus All-American and the 1964 SEC Player of the Year. The Auburn fullback was a runner-up for the Heisman Trophy in 1964.

The New York Giants selected Frederickson No. 1 overall in 1965, and he saw limited success in the NFL. He reached the Pro Bowl in his rookie season, but missed the following year after suffering a knee injury.

Unfortunately, injury issues plagued the remainder of Frederickson’s NFL career. He never again rushed for more than 500 yards in a single season after totaling 659 yards with 5 touchdowns his rookie year. He was forced to retire in 1971 following yet another knee injury.

Frederickson finished his NFL career having rushed for 2,209 yards and 9 touchdowns with 1,011 receiving yards and 8 receiving touchdowns.

Other Notable Picks

Kevin Greene, DL — No. 113 overall, 1985 NFL Draft (Los Angeles Rams)

Most star NFL players are selected in the first round, but Kevin Greene is one of many who prove you can reach stardom despite being taken in the later rounds.

Greene attempted to walk on at Auburn several times before he finally made the team in 1983. He immediately proved he should have been considered sooner, winning the 1984 SEC Defensive Player of the Year award. Despite this, Greene fell on draft boards to the 5th round at No. 113 to the Los Angeles Rams. From there, it’s all history.

Greene had what was truly one of the best defensive careers ever seen up until that point in NFL history. He made the Pro Bowl 5 times from 1985-1999, was named the Defensive Player of the Year in 1996 and finished with 160 total sacks, 773 tackles and 23 forced fumbles.

He later entered a career in wrestling then coaching in the NFL. He won a Super Bowl with the Green Bay Packers in 2010.

Derrick Brown, DL — No. 7 overall, 2020 NFL Draft (Carolina Panthers)

Brown, even in 2024, is the highest picked Auburn Tiger since Greg Robinson in 2014. And though he still has a lot of his story to write, everything points to a strong NFL career for Brown.

He’s gotten better each and every year he’s been in the league, earning a Pro Bowl nod last season after accruing 103 tackles, 7 tackles for loss, 2 sacks and 6 pass deflections. Brown has so far started 63 games with the Carolina Panthers and is set for a superstar season in 2024.

Ethan Stone
Ethan Stone was an editor for his student newspaper at the University of Tennessee and is now a News Manager for Saturday Down South.

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