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Puka Nacua continues historic season with Rams

Rams rookie Puka Nacua is having one of the best rookie seasons in the 100+ year history of the NFL

NFL: New Orleans Saints at Los Angeles Rams Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

I will be the first to admit that I was skeptical of Puka Nacua and that he has single-handedly renewed my ability to have optimism when there are reports of a day three rookie “standing out” in offseason and preseason training situations. In minicamps, OTAs, and training camp, Nacua was consistently mentioned as the player to watch, but it was hard to believe that a fifth round rookie could be a starter on the L.A. Rams, let alone one of the top-10 receivers in the entire league for any experience, especially given the hype previously given to names like Tutu Atwell, Van Jefferson, and Allen Robinson.

Not only is Nacua starting for the Rams, not only is he one of the top-10 receivers in the NFL, he’s already had one of the best rookie seasons in the 100+ year history of the league.

Puka Nacua continued that stretch of historic dominance on Thursday night, catching nine passes for 164 yards with a touchdown and gaining another 16 yards on the ground in a win against the Saints, giving him totals of 97 receptions, 1,327 receiving yards and 1,397 total yards through 15 games.

Not only should Puka Nacua be a contender for Offensive Rookie of the Year, he should warrant some consideration as a second-team All-Pro. He’s not just reminiscent of Cooper Kupp as a rookie. He’s better and as first seasons go, it’s not even close.

Puka Nacua’s game totals

Nacua’s 164 yards against the Saints is a career-high and tied as the 61st-best ever for a rookie. Maybe “61st” doesn’t sound that impressive, but Nacua already had a 163-yard game, a 154-yarder, and a 147-yard game to his belt.

For receivers not drafted in the first round, Nacua’s 164 is tied as the 32nd-most ever. For receivers drafted in round four or later, it’s 18th. Him and Marques Colston are the only two players on the list with two such games in the top-20.

Nacua has four games this season with 140+ yards, putting him one behind the all-time most of five games, a tie between OBJ and Bill Groman. The only other player with four such games besides Nacua is Billy Howton. So only two of those names, OBJ and Puka, played in the Super Bowl era.

Puka Nacua’s rookie season totals

At 1,327 receiving yards, Puka Nacua passed Odell Beckham and Randy Moss for the fifth-most receiving yards ever by a rookie and he did it in fewer games than Moss. Moss had some insane numbers that Puka can’t touch—19 yards per catch and 17 touchdowns—but Nacua’s better at his own specialty. His 97 receptions are 28 more than Moss.

With another 50 yards, Nacua will tie Anquan Boldin for the fourth-most receiving yards by a rookie. He needs 74 yards to pass Justin Jefferson (1,400) for third place. He needs 124 yards to pass Ja’Marr Chase, who did it in 17 games. And Puka Nacua needs 146 yards to pass Bill Groman for the rookie receiving yardage record. To Groman’s credit, he did it in only 13 games. Maybe Puka can still be the first rookie receiver to cross 1,500 yards, if not go much further.

With four more catches, he will tie Boldin for second place, and with eight more, he will pass Jaylen Waddle for the rookie record.

If we only considered day two and day three picks, it wouldn’t even be close. Puka Nacua is historically going to be the best rookie receiver drafted after the second round in history, by most stats.

He could also be the best, period.