Each year the league’s “top rookies” head to LA for the NFLPA Rookie Premiere. And if there’s one thing you learn if a team is to have a rookie in attendance, they best not draft defensive players or offensive linemen.
That’s just what the Raiders did with their picks in the first five rounds. They selected cornerback Gareon Conley, safety Obi Melfonwu, defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes, offensive tackle David Sharpe, and linebacker Marquel Lee in the first five rounds.
The Rookie Premiere is all about promotion and in that industry, they LOVE offensive skill position players.
Last year, the Raiders’ took defensive players in the first three rounds and none were invited to the Rookie Premiere. But fourth round quarterback Connor Cook was invited. Fifth round running back DeAndre Washington was invited.
This year the Raiders took just one offensive skill position player when they selected running back Elijah Hood in the seventh round.
They haven’t always shut out defensive players. Khalil Mack attended the Rookie Premiere in 2014 as the fifth overall pick. But they’re always an extreme minority. Mack was one of just two players invited that year along with number one overall pick JaDeveon Clowney. The past two seasons, only one defender was among the invites.
But this year, the NFLPA isn’t even pretending to care about defense. Every single one of the 40 attendees is an offensive skill position player. This despite two of the top three picks being defenders, including number one overall pick Myles Garrett.
Here is the list of player invites:
There is only ONE first round offensive skill position player not attending -- 29th overall pick tight end David Njoku. On the other hand, there were 19 defenders and offensive linemen taken in the first round with none being invited.
The NFLPA claims the purpose of the event is for rookies to "learn the business of football." So, do only offensive skill position players need to learn the business of football?
According to the Rookie Premiere page:
“NFLPA Rookie Premiere is unique across professional sports, providing partners with unmatched access to 40 of the NFL's newest young stars at their first major business and marketing event following the NFL Draft. NFLPA Rookie Premiere is one of the most valuable opportunities, exclusively available to NFLPA partners, because it's the first time for these partners to connect directly with professional football's most promising and marketable young stars--all in one place—and build content and relationships that extend into the season and beyond.”
For a league and a players union that supposedly celebrates defense as the key to winning championships, and building through the trenches, not including any among those they see as marketable sends an entirely different message.
Without even token inclusions, they have just flat out given up on even pretending they are.