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Is Puka Nacua becoming the next Lance McCutcheon?

McCutcheon didn’t live up to hype last season; Will Nacua do the same in 2023?

NFL: Los Angeles Rams Minicamp Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Fifth-rounder Puka Nacua has been the talk of the Los Angeles Rams to this point of the offseason. Fans and sportswriters across the league (including myself) have said that Nacua has Robert Woods 2.0 written all over him. Now there is even talk about whether the rookie could rise to WR2 status by the end of the upcoming season.

Hype surrounding the BYU product has grown at an astronomical rate. So much so that ESPN named Nacua as the Rams’ biggest surprise from NFL offseason workouts.

“Nacua, a fifth-round draft pick from BYU, earned steady praise from coach Sean McVay, quarterback Matthew Stafford and fellow wideout Cooper Kupp. Nacua seems to have picked up the offense quickly and has a knack for getting open, which bodes well for carving out a role in a receiving corps that lacks certainty behind Kupp.” per ESPN’s Dan Greenspan

Given that were in summer blockbuster season, are we inevitably gearing up for another Hollywood dud? Please tell me the Rams aren’t gearing up for a Lance McCutcheon spinoff. I refuse to spend my hard-earned money to watch the same thing play out. If I wanted to watch recycled storylines, I’d watch an MCU film.

Earlier this month, TST’s very own JB Scott warned readers about the hype surrounding Nacua. It’s easy to fall into the trap of optimism following such a disappointing campaign. Fact is, rookie receivers (aside from Justin Jefferson and Ja’Marr Chase), and especially late-rounders often have trouble making the transition to the pros. Yes, no matter what the predictive variables of wide receiver success says.

As JB noted, it’s even harder for rookie pass catchers not named Cooper Kupp under McVay as they don’t make enough of a sizable impact when on the field. If they see the field is more like it. My gut is saying that Nacua might be closer to this tweet than Bobby Trees for now:

McCutcheon was the preseason darling last season as he led the league in receiving yards. That should’ve been the first red flag. During the regular season, the undrafted rookie from Montana State appeared in 10 games, starting only one while failing to record a reception off five targets. Such hype crashed back down to earth for a player who once did this:

The fact that McCutcheon couldn’t establish himself in a depleted receiver corps missing Kupp and practically everyone else was concerning. Tutu Atwell was another player who earned plenty of hype ever since being drafted out of Louisville. While McCutcheon couldn’t catch up to speed (or catch for that matter), Atwell somewhat stepped up and built up additional hype ahead of a critical third season in LA.

Fans tend to hype up players to impossible standards and are left sitting alone in a dark theater wondering what the hell they had just witnessed when they fail to live up to it. This is a glaring issue and I’ve admittedly been guilty of it myself on several occasions. Perhaps Nacua won’t follow in McCutcheon’s footsteps.

In a crowded receiving room behind Kupp, there might not be a chance for Nacua to set himself apart just yet. Not saying that it won’t happen but we need to give the young playmaker some time. Let’s just hope Puka doesn’t become the next victim of the Lance McCutcheon trap.