In hindsight, maybe we should’ve seen this coming. Puka Nacua, somewhat of an afterthought from the NFL Draft experts, going to one of the more innovative and inventive offensive minds in football in Sean McVay and the Los Angeles Rams. It was a match made in heaven.
It also helped that to start the season, the Rams were without their star pass-catcher Cooper Kupp. That set the stage for Nacua to take the league by storm with a special connection with quarterback Matthew Stafford.
Catching 10 passes for 119 yards against the Seahawks in his first ever regular season game in the NFL certainly turned heads and raised eyebrows. Even then, some dismissed it, thinking he would fade once Kupp returned.
When Kupp came back, the Rams only got better and Nacua became even more of a growing legend. Overall, he turned in a whopping seven games of over 100 receiving yards, including three north of 150. He set records right and left.
He now is the NFL record holder for receptions and receiving yards by a rookie in a single season.
Historic start to Puka Nacua's NFL career pic.twitter.com/g4RaX2csGG— Sunday Night Football on NBC (@SNFonNBC) January 8, 2024
No matter what happens from here on out in his career, Nacua can say, at the very least, he had a record-setting rookie season. He finished fourth in the NFL with 1,486 receiving yards and ninth with 105 catches. He also added six touchdowns, pacing the Rams’ entire pass-catching squad.
With that, Nacua is now receiving his just due. He was named a Pro Bowler, one of just five rookies to earn the honor this season.
The only higher honor in an NFL season for any individual player (aside from winning an actual award) is being named to the All-Pro team. Nacua was listed as Second Team All-Pro. That means, in the eyes of the NFL media, Tyreek Hill, CeeDee Lamb, and Amon-Ra St. Brown were the only receivers better than Nacua this season.
In regards to the official AP Offensive Rookie of the Year Award, that will not be announced until the night before the Super Bowl, which is Saturday, February 10. Texans QB CJ Stroud is the odds-on favorite to win. Certainly, there is a strong case for him as the quarterback of a downtrodden franchise that won the AFC South and is in the playoffs.
Closely behind Stroud in the odds is Nacua. While Nacua likely will not win the official award from the Associated Press, he is garnering recognition. Most outlets have Nacua as the runner-up for the award.
If Nacua stays healthy and most of the Rams offense remains status quo, there is no reason to think Nacua can’t continue to be a Pro Bowl-level receiver in one of the league’s most prolific offenses for years to come.
It appears, the former BYU Cougar is just getting started.