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Puka Nacua tabbed as a day 3 sleeper who can make an impact

The Athletic lists Puka Nacua as a day 3 sleeper who could make an impact in his rookie season

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COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 05 BYU at Boise State Marc Sanchez/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Los Angeles Rams rookie wide receiver Puka Nacua continues to impress during the team’s organized team activities. It’s possible that the Rams ended up with a steal in the fifth-round of the NFL Draft. Nacua has garnered praise from Matthew Stafford, Van Jefferson, Sean McVay, and offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur.

The former BYU wide receiver has gotten a lot of praise in the media as well since being drafted. The Draft Network went as far as to say that Nacua could carve out a WR2 role by the end of his rookie season. The Athletic’s Nick Baumgardner then recently listed day three rookies who have the potential to make an immediate impact. Nacua made that list. Here’s what Baumgardner had to say.

“He has to stay healthy, which has been easier said than done for Nacua. He had to deal with a lot of injury-related frustration in college and never started more than eight games at either Washington or BYU. Nacua also got injured at the Senior Bowl. When he’s healthy, though, he’s one of the best in this class at tracking the ball...Nacua runs routes with great quickness but stays under control. He also adjusts to poor throws and maintains his feet near the sideline, and he finds soft spots in zones with consistency. He could be a QB-friendly receiver for Matthew Stafford and the Rams. Receivers like Nacua who understand how to get open and aren’t afraid to play through contact tend to do just fine in the league.”

Baumgardner brings up a good point that not many have been talking about when it comes to Nacua. At the end of the day, there’s a reason why he fell to the fifth-round. He’s dealt with injuries throughout his college career which has forced him to miss time on the field. When he had a chance to impress during the Senior Bowl, he missed most of the week after impressing on the first day.

It can be easy to falling into the trap of buying into the hype of these players before they ever step onto the field. There was a lot of this same type of excitement with Jacob Harris after he was drafted. However, Harris was also a player that dealt with injuries in college and that proved to be his downfall with the Rams.

For Nacua to succeed with the Rams, he’ll obviously need to stay healthy. There’s a lot of potential here with a player who is good at tracking the ball, runs good routes, and is a competitive blocker. Sean McVay missed this type of player last season after the team decided to trade Robert Woods.

With Van Jefferson on the final year of his rookie deal, Nacua looks to be his potential replacement next season. At the very least, he’ll be in contention for the third wide receiver if general manager Les Snead were to sign or trade for a bigger name wide receiver next offseason.

Throughout the Sean McVay era, the Rams typically have heavily included only a handful of rookies in their first season. Cooper Kupp and Jordan Fuller immediately come to mind. The opportunity is there for Nacua. However, for him to make an immediate impact in year one, he’ll need to show not only that he has a firm grasp on the offense, but also that he can stay healthy.