Puka Nacua had 154 more yards in Sunday’s loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, just 2 yards shy of tying Ja’Marr Chase’s record for the most-ever through a player’s first 7 NFL games. The L.A. Rams fifth round rookie now has 752 yards in seven games, the second-most of all-time to start a career behind Chase’s 754 yards in 2021. The question of whether Cooper Kupp’s return would negatively impact Puka was answered emphatically in Week 7, despite the loss:
Matthew Stafford targeted Puka 12 times against the Steelers and the rookie caught eight for 154 yards. He has surpassed Odell Beckham Jr (609 yards in 2014) and Anquan Boldwin (621 yards in 2003) to sit directly behind Chase’s record-breaking pace in 2021. Puka has already been target 82 times, more than any other player in history through seven games; Terry Glenn has targeted 78 times through seven games in 1996.
It is also Puka’s third career game with at least 140 yards already. That’s a first. Only three other players in NFL history have had two 140-yard games through their first seven appearances: OBJ, Chase, and Justin Jefferson.
All of those players were first round picks, but Puka was available with the final pick of round five.
Puka needs one more 140 yard game to tie Billy Howton with four 140+ yard games during a rookie season, the second-most ever. Howton had those four games in 1952, while Bill Groman had five such games in 1960 and OBJ had five in 2014.
Puka has 10 more games left this season.
With 752 yards, Puka Nacua is only 248 yards away from becoming the 30th rookie in NFL history to reach 1,000 yards. He has more than halfway towards setting the NFL rookie record of 1,473 yards by Groman, a mark he set in only 14 games. Chase had 1,455 yards in 17 games two years ago.
But Nacua is even closer to setting marks for rookies who were not first round picks.
Only 11 players who weren’t first round picks have had 1,000 yards as rookies and six of those players were second round picks: Boldin, Howton, Michael Thomas, Ernest Givins, A.J. Brown, and Cris Collinsworth. Keenan Allen was a third round pick and Bill Brooks was a fourth round pick.
Only two players in NFL history were drafted outside of the top-100 and had 1,000 yards as a rookie: Harlon Hill in 1954 and Marques Colston in 2006. Colston was a seventh round pick out of Hofstra.
Puka needs less than 400 yards to set a new record for receiving yards by a rookie picked outside of the top-100, which would be less than 40 yards per game if he stays healthy. He’s averaging over 100 yards per game so far and the return of Kupp (who had 29 yards on seven targets) didn’t stop Stafford from trusting Puka in the big moments.
Nothing about “the moment” has been too big for Puka Nacua.