There may be no bigger surprise on the young NFL season so far than the breakout of Los Angeles Rams rookie receiver Puka Nacua. LA selected Nacua in the final slot of the fifth round in this spring’s NFL Draft.
Many attributed Nacua’s early-season breakout to the absence of star pass catcher Cooper Kupp, but even with Kupp’s return over the last three weeks the rookie is still edging out the veteran in terms of yardage. Nacua is now over the 750-yard mark through only seven games. He has four individual 100-yard performances over the same stretch:
- Week 1 at Seattle Seahawks: 10 receptions for 119 yards
- Week 2 vs San Francisco 49ers: 15 receptions for 147 yards
- Week 3 at Cincinnati Bengals: 5 receptions for 72 yards
- Week 4 at Indianapolis Colts: 9 receptions for 163 yards, TD*
- Week 5 vs Philadelphia Eagles: 7 receptions for 71 yards, TD
- Week 6 vs Arizona Cardinals: 4 receptions for 26 yards
- Week 7 vs Pittsburgh Steelers: 8 receptions for 154 yards
*Scored game-winning drive in overtime to seal win for LA
Just 2 players in NFL history have at least 700 receiving yards through their first 7 career games:— Underdog NFL (@Underdog__NFL) October 22, 2023
Nacua’s 752 yards is good for third in the NFL behind Tyreek Hill of the Miami Dolphins and AJ Brown of the Eagles, and it’s becoming a safer and safer bet that he’ll soon join the rare club of rookie receivers to cross the 1,000-yard threshold. There have been only 27 receivers to break this mark as a rookie, and Nacua will soon enter the same company of Brown, Justin Jefferson, Ja’Marr Chase, Jaylen Waddle, Garrett Wilson, and Chris Olave. Brown is the only one of this group not drafted in the first round, but he was still selected in the second. Keenan Allen is a former third round pick that became a member of the 1,000-yard rookie club in 2013. Marques Colston,2006, accomplished this feat despite his seventh-round draft status.
So not only will Nacua enter rare air by crossing the 1,000-yard mark on the season, he will be the lowest-drafted player to do so in the last 17 years—it’s truly remarkable what the rookie is accomplishing this season for the Rams.
It’s encouraging for Nacua’s future performance that Colston wasn’t just a one-year wonder. He had six 1,000-yard seasons for the New Orleans Saints over his 10 years with the team. His staying power bodes well for Nacua, and largely the group of receivers to cross the millennium mark comprises the NFL’s elite.
So with less than 250-yards to go, when could Nacua break the 1,000-yard mark in 2023? Let’s take a look at LA’s upcoming schedule:
Week 8 at Dallas Cowboys
Dallas’ secondary has been porous at times since losing star corner Trevon Diggs to an ACL injury that he suffered during mid-week practice. It’s on the Rams’ offensive line to hold up and allow time for Matthew Stafford to find his targets downfield. If they can do that, Nacua should be as productive as we’ve grown accustomed to seeing from him.
Week 9 at Green Bay Packers
The Packers’ defense is filled with premium talent but they’ve never quite been able to put it all together under defensive coordinator Joe Barry.
Week 10 BYE
Week 11 vs Seattle Seahawks
Nacua had 119 yards in the season opener in Seattle. Can we expect a repeat performance in this game, even though Kupp should play this time around?
Week 12 at Arizona Cardinals
The rookie’s least productive game so far this season came against Arizona, though he did drop a touchdown in the end zone in the first matchup. Was this part of the Cardinals’ game plan or just a coincidence?
When do you think Puka Nacua will break the 1,000-yard mark for the Rams and join an elite club of rookies to cross this threshold? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.