South Jersey has enjoyed a strong history contributing to the NFL draft’s first round. Of the group, 19 players were NFL first round picks, while another was a first rounder from the old USFL supplemental draft.
The latest to make the list was Cesar Ruiz, who was drafted in the first round by New Orleans in 2020. Ruiz played his first two seasons at Camden before transferring to Florida’s IMG Academy.
Audubon’s Joe Flacco became the first South Jersey QB to be taken in the first round when he was the 18th overall selection of the 2008 draft by the Baltimore Ravens. Flacco is now on the Eagles.
With the Ravens, Flacco made the playoffs in each of his first five years, culminating in a Super Bowl championship following the 2012 season.
In 2002 when Bryant McKinnie of Woodbury was taken with the seventh pick of the first round by Minnesota and Holy Spirit’s Williams Green was selected with the 16th choice in the first round by Cleveland, it marked the second time that two South Jersey players went in the first round of the same draft. The first came in 1997 when Cherokee’s Tom Knight was drafted by Arizona and Eastern’s Chris Canty went to New England.
The selections of McKinnie and Green broke a long-standing South Jersey trend. Prior to that 2002 draft, all the South Jersey first-rounders hailed either from Camden County or Burlington County. McKinnie was from Gloucester County and Green was from Atlantic County.
The first South Jersey first-rounder was Dave Robinson of Moorestown and Penn State, taken by the Green Bay Packers with the 14th selection in 1963. Robinson played in the first two Super Bowls in 1967 and 1968 and was a three-time Pro Bowl selection at linebacker in 1967, 1968 and 1970. He is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The other Hall of Famer from South Jersey is Franco Harris of Rancocas Valley, who was taken in the first round by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1972. Harris rushed for 12,120 career yards (4.1 avg) and 91 Tds.
This list of first-rounders includes Mike Rozier of Woodrow Wilson, who was the second player selected in the supplemental round after the USFL folded. Rozier played for Pittsburgh of the USFL and then was taken in supplemental draft by the Houston Oilers immediately after Tampa Bay chose Steve Young.
Rozier and Overbrook’s Ron Dayne are the two Heisman Trophy winners from South Jersey. In another note, Rancocas Valley’s three No. 1 picks are the most. They are Harris, Irving Fryar and Alonzo Spellman.
South Jersey First Round Draft Picks
Year Player Pos. High School College Pro Team Position drafted
1963 Dave Robinson LB Moorestown Penn State Green Bay 14
1967 Floyd Little RB Bordentown Military Syrcuse Denver 6
1973 Bob Bell Bordentown Military Cincinnati Detroit 21
1972 Franco Harris RB Rancocas Valley Penn State Pittsburgh 13
1978 Art Still DE Camden Kentucky Kansas City 2
1984 Irving Fryar Rancocas Valley Nebraska New England 1
1985 Mike Rozier RB Woodrow Wilson Nebraska Houston 2*
1992 Alonzo Spellman DE Rancocas Valley Ohio State Chicago 22
1993 Irv Smith TE Pemberton Notre Dame New Orleand 20
1997 Tom Knight CB Cherokee Iowa Arizona 9
1997 Chris Canty CB Eastern Kansas State New England 29
1998 Donovin Darius S Woodrow Wilson Syracuse Jacksonville 25
2000 Ron Dayne RB Overbrook Wisconsin NY Giants 8
2002 Bryant McKinnie OT Woodbury Miami Minnesota 7
2002 William Green RB Holy Spirit Boston College Cleveland 16
2003 Michael Haynes DL Northern Burlington Penn State Chicago 14
2008 Joe Flacco QB Audubon Delaware Baltimore 18
2016 Eli Apple CB Eastern Ohio State NY Giants 10
2017 Haason Reddick LB Haddon Heights Temple Arizona, Eagles 13
2020 Cesar Ruiz C Camden Michigan New Orleans 24**
*supplemental draft from the USFL Draft
** played his first two seasons at Camden before transferring to Florida’s IMG Academy.