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Rams Roster Profile: Can Puka Nacua have a significant role in the offense?

How big of a role will Puka Nacua have in 2023?

Los Angeles Rams Offseason Workout Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

When it comes to the Los Angeles Rams wide receiver room, there will be a lot of competition behind Cooper Kupp and Van Jefferson. Ben Skowronek will be looking to continue in his development while TuTu Atwell attempts to take the next step.

However, the one wide receiver that everybody was talking about during OTAs was rookie fifth-round pick, Puka Nacua. Nacua grabbed the attention of players and coaches and will be looking to take that momentum into training camp.

Between now and the Rams’ first preseason game, I’m going to preview approximately 45 players on the roster. The goal here will be to highlight players looking to take that next step in 2023 as well as players who will serve as key depth on the roster. I may expand into the occasional star or roster-bubble player, but for the most part we’ll be looking at the players who will truly make or break the Rams season.

Today, we’re looking at Puka Nacua

College Career

Nacua started his career at Washington before transferring to BYU. He led the Cougars both seasons at receiver, with 48 receptions for 625 yards and five touchdowns in 2022. This was despite missing time with injury. Nacua’s biggest games last season came against Arkansas and Boise State. Against Arksas, Nacua had eight receptions for 141 yards. He then cracked the 150 yard mark against Boise State with 157 yards on 14 receptions.

The concern for Nacua is that he dealt with several injuries throughout his collegiate career. He missed time in 2022 with lingering injuries and then after being invited to the Senior Bowl, he was only able to participate in one day of practice before suffering an injury. His injury last season put him out four games.

The Good/Best Case Scenario

The good news with Nacua is that he seems to be exactly the type of wide receiver that the Rams were missing. His style is somewhat similar to that of Robert Woods. He has experience in the run game on jet sweeps and is big enough to play on the outside. However, he also brings good body control in contested catch situations.

It’s been hard for a rookie to break through in the Sean McVay offense over the last few seasons. That seems to be different this year. In a best case scenario, Nacua continues his momentum from OTAs into training camp, gains the trust of the coaching staff, and is the primary third wide receiver in 11 personnel.

The Bad/Worst Case Scenario

Throughout his career, Nacua has dealt with injuries. The Rams do have some depth at the wide receiver position, but it will be important for Nacua to stay healthy and get important experience this season.

The worst case scenario for Nacua is that he gets hurt in training camp or the preseason and then has to miss the beginning of the year. It will be much easier for him to get snaps early that to ask the coaching staff to make changes later on, especially if he hasn't been able to practice. Nacua needs to stay healthy.

Biggest Question: Can Puka Nacua have a significant role in the offense?

It’s important to remain realistic when it comes to Nacua. At the end of the day, he was a fifth-round pick. He fell to day three for a reason. That doesn’t mean that he can’t or that he won’t be good. It’s only to say that it’s unlikely he comes in and has 700 yards and is Robert Woods on Day 1.

The Rams wide receiver room is crowded behind Kupp and Jefferson. Skowronek will demand snaps and has earned those snaps over the last two years. After showing what he could do last year when he finally got on the field, Atwell is going to get opportunities. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Nacua get on the field. However, he’s not going to come in and immediately dominate snaps as the third wide receiver.

Roster Battle

Nacua will make the final roster and therefore his roster battle will come on the depth chart. Ahead of him entering training camp will be Skowronek and Atwell. Behind Nacua is Demarcus Robinson. Lance McCutcheon also can’t completely be forgotten about.

The Rams rookie has shown maturity in OTAs which should give him an edge and some momentum heading into training camp. As a player with no experience in the NFL though, it will be an uphill climb.

2023 Outlook and What to Expect

As a rookie, Josh Reynolds had 11 receptions for 104 yards. Skowronek had 11 receptions for 133 yards in 2021. That feels like a good floor for Nacua with the potential to his somewhere between 300-400 yards. As far as his outlook goes, it would be nice to see him earn some playing time and see the field as a rotational player on offense. If he can stay healthy and then show growth throughout the year, that would be considered a successful rookie season.

Chances of Making Final Roster

Things would have to take quite the turn for Nacua not to earn a spot on the final roster. He’s a lock!

Final Roster Confidence: 10/10