Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Puka Nacua has taken the NFL by storm during his rookie season. Selected in the fifth-round of the 2023 NFL Draft, Nacua eclipsed the 1,000 yard mark and broke the Rams franchise rookie receiving record last week against the Cleveland Browns.
Watching the Rams go without a 1,000 yard wide receiver post-Torry Holt from 2007-2016, the 1,000 yard milestone even in a passing league is no small feat. The Rams franchise has also had good wide receiver talent come through the organization. Namely Henry Ellard, Isaac Bruce, and Torry Holt were all higher draft picks. Ellard and Bruce had 268 and 272 receiving yards as rookies while Holt had 788. There’s a chance Nacua has more yards as a rookie that those three players combined.
The next big milestone for Nacua will be the NFL’s all-time rookie receiving record set by Bill Groman in 1960. In that season, Groman had 1,473 yards, albeit in 14 games. Still, if Nacua were to break that record, it would certainly be a huge accomplishment.
Puka Nacua is averaging 2.53 yards per route run this season which leads all rookies (min. 50 targets).— Blaine Grisak (@bgrisakTST) December 4, 2023
The only rookies WRs with more since PFF started tracking that data in 2006 are:
2020 Justin Jefferson: 2.66
2019 AJ Brown: 2.67
2014 OBJ: 2.75
There were some questions on whether or not Nacua would be able to break the record after the Rams bye week. Heading out of the bye, Nacua needed to average 77 yards per game over the back half of the season. The Rams rookie was averaging 82 yards per game up until that point, but with games against the Browns and Baltimore Ravens on deck, it seemed difficult for him to keep up that pace.
Well, here we are and Nacua had 105 yards against the daunting Browns defense. Nacua needs just 445 receiving yards over the final five weeks to break the record. He would need to keep a pace of 89 yards per game. Right now, he’s averaging 85. Again, that pace seems difficult, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility.
The Rams will be playing the Ravens on Sunday who rank first in pass defense DVOA and second in pass defense EPA. However, following the Ravens game, it does get easier. The Washington Commanders have the worst pass defense in the NFL and the New Orleans Saints are slightly above league average. The New York Giants are also around league average as well.
It’s likely that the record will come down to the Week 18 matchup against the San Francisco 49ers. Earlier this season, Nacua had 147 yards against the Rams’ division rival.
Nacua will also have a chance to break Jaylen Waddle’s rookie reception record. Waddle had 104 reception in 2021. Right now, the Rams rookie is on pace for 109 receptions.
This is something that fans and the media will certainly be keeping an eye on as Week 18 gets closer. The receptions record would obviously be impressive, but if Nacua broke the rookie receiving yards record that has stood for over 60 years, it would be quite the milestone. Records are made to be broken. We’ll see if Nacua breaks Groman’s record.