LA Rams 2023 draft highlight: 'We're going to nail that pick.' And they did

NFC Wild Card Playoffs - Los Angeles Rams v Detroit Lions, Puka Nacua
NFC Wild Card Playoffs - Los Angeles Rams v Detroit Lions, Puka Nacua / Kevin Sabitus/GettyImages

When the LA Rams scripted their positional needs and draft priorities for the 2023 NFL Draft, I don't think that the wide receiver position was a top priority. I can validate that presumption due to the fact that the LA Rams did not address the position until the 177th overall pick of the 2023 NFL Dratt, a late pick in Round 5. That's about the midpoint of Day 3 selections. But more on that in a little bit.

Even after the Rams front office traded veteran wide receiver Allen Robinson to the Pittsburgh Steelers in a deal that worked out to be nothing better than a salary dump, the Rams wide receiver room still possessed enough talent to provide ample depth on paper.

The LA Rams had veterans Cooper Kupp, Van Jefferson, Ben Skowronek, and Tutu Atwell competing for precious playing time. And multiple injuries had even afforded some playing time to WR Austin Trammell in 2022, experience that justified considering him for playing time in 2023.

Still, the Rams were always open to adding a depth player, perhaps a rookie prospect who could fit the Rams offense well enough out of the gates to work into the offense for some special offensive packages. Perhaps the Rams might find a powerful receiver who could block well like Ben Skowronek? Perhaps the Rams might identify a smallish but speedy receiver like Tutu Atwell. But nothing could have prepared the Rams for who they would select with the 177th overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft.

"We're gonna nail that pick"

The LA Rams were itching to pull the trigger on BYU wide receiver Puka Nacua. Not only was it due to the simple fact that the Rams were eager to add a wide receiver to the room, but Nacua was such a natural and obvious fit for what the LA Rams plan for their wide receivers.

Just check out the Rams draft room in the moments leading up to that pick:

While the entire video and sound bite is loaded with incredible quotes, I think that LA Rams HC Sean McVay summarize the Rams plans for rookie WR Puka Nacua best:

"I think this guy would be really good for us, Les (Snead, Rams GM). I want a guy that is going to be where he's supposed to be, that will stay grounded through the catch, aggressive hands that will dig out, support in the run game. And then we can also give him (a runner's role). He can be an extension of the run game. (Les - Jeez, take the whole draft?!) This guy can be a functional piece of an offensive operation. "

Rams HC Sean McVay

So how did Puka Nacua do?

In the regular season, Rams rookie WR Puka Nacua played 16.5 games, and caught 105 of 160 passes for 1,486 yards and six touchdowns. He set the NFL All-Time Rookie Receiving record for receptions and receiving yards. But wait, there's more.

In his lone and only game as a rookie in the NFL Playoffs, Nacua caught 9 of 10 passes for 181 receiving yards and a touchdown.

And that was all accomplished in his rookie season.

To earn playing time in the Rams offense as a rookie wide receiver, that player must demonstrate an ability to run routes, catch contested passes, put up yards after the catch, run with the football, and block. Clearly, Puka Nacua checked all of the boxes for the Rams.

Will he be better in 2024? While nothing is a sure thing, I can point to no reason why he won't be even better next season. He has established amazing chemistry with starting quarterback Matthew Stafford. He has earned complete and unwavering trust from HC Sean McVay. But perhaps best of all, he showed up in the biggest way on the biggest stage of his NFL career.

Will Nacua be the WR1 of the Rams offense in 2024? Don't look now, but I think that he already is.