Puka Nacua is on a rocket ship of NFL stardom like few in history have ever experienced before. It’s not that unusual for rookies to have good seasons, it’s not unusual for day three picks to become draft steals, but it is extremely unusual for a fifth round pick to be one of the best players in the NFL right away. Especially at a highly competitive position like wide receiver, but that is the first-year experience of L.A. Rams rookie Puka Nacua.
Setting records for most catches and yards by a rookie, Nacua isn’t just a nice little steal for your fantasy team or anything. He’s gone from an unknown to one of the most respected players in the NFL practically overnight, as proven by the fact that Nacua is at the Pro Bowl this weekend and he was a second-team All-Pro.
Not only is Nacua at the Pro Bowl, on Saturday he played a two-on-two game of Madden with the winner getting three points for their team on the actual Pro Bowl on Sunday. Nacua was teamed up for the NFC with Dallas Cowboys linebacker Micah Parsons and they blew out the AFC’s duo of Tyreek Hill and David Njoku to give their conference an advantage in the Pro Bowl.
Here’s kind of the strangest thing of all: Puka Nacua belonged in that room with Tyreek and Parsons. He’s one of the best players in the NFL even though at this time last year he was finishing up a rather non-descript college career and preparing for a draft in which 176 prospects would go ahead of him. None of them would make as much sense on that couch next to Micah Parsons as Puka Nacua.
Even Micah Parsons knows it because at one point he said, without anyone taking notice, “Hey Dallas, what was going on in the fifth round?”
As in, “Why didn’t you draft Puka Nacua in the fifth round, Jerry Jones?”
For what it’s worth, the Cowboys selected tackle Asim Richards out of North Carolina with the 169th pick, eight spots ahead of Nacua. Parsons, intentionally or not, is kind of making it seem like his teammate was the wrong pick. Not that anyone in the world would disagree at this point, maybe not even Richards (who played in eight games), but it is interesting to hear that from one Cowboys player about another.
To be fair to the Cowboys and Parsons, not even the Rams were anxious to select Nacua, as after Dallas selected Richards, L.A. still picked both Warren McClendon and Davis Allen ahead of Nacua. He was the Rams’ fourth pick of the fifth round.
What would the Cowboys look like with Puka Nacua?
CeeDee Lamb had 135 catches and 1,749 yards, which was more than 1,000 yards more than the next-most by any receiver on the Cowboys. Nacua finished ninth in catches with 105 and fourth in yards with 1,486.
That would have been like...a game of Madden.