Rams turn to the wideout in 2023
In the 2023 NFL Draft, the LA Rams waited until Round 5 to reinforce the wide receiver room, selecting WR Puka Nacua with the 177th pick. The Rams merely wanted to add another strong bodied receiver who would take over the role of veteran WR Allen Robinson, a player who was traded away for next to nothing. The Rams front office wanted a player who could catch passes, block at the line of scrimmage, and run crisp routes. But what the Rams ended up with was so much more.
Much like RB Kyren Williams, WR Puka Nacua is the running-up in 2023 in terms of receiving yards (for now) in just 15 games, and he is only a rookie. In fact, we broke down the All-Time NFL Rookie Receiving Yards record, and Puka Nacua is climbing the record rungs pretty quickly. With just two games on the Rams' schedule, Nacua only needs to add 146 receiver yards and six receptions to lead all rookies in NFL history.
Let's remind everyone that he was the 177th rookie selected in the 2023 NFL Draft.
Puka picks up where Kupp leaves off
Unlike Kyren Williams, Puka Nacua has started hot and continues to pile on the yards in a Rams offense that is ripe for elite WR performances. Since 2021, the LA Rams have labored to find a receiver who can take up the yolk in games in which All-Pro Cooper Kupp is struggling, and they have found that counter-balance in my opinion.
We anticipated that the Rams would target Cooper Kupp most often in Week 16's Thursday Night Football contest against the New Orleans Saints, and the Rams did so. What we could not foresee is how Kupp, banged around in several plays and favoring his left arm as a result, would only be able to catch six of 12 passes thrown his way for 52 yards.
So the LA Rams turned to Nacua, throwing 11 passes to the rookie receiver. He caught nine of thos passes, rumbling for 164 receiving yards and a touchdown. In the game, Nacua exhibited NFL caliber resiliency and physicality, running through several hard-hitting Saints defensive backs to gain more yards.
No, the LA Rams did not select a single rookie prospect on Day 1 of any NFL draft since hiring Sean McVay to be the Rams head coach in 2017. But a pair of 5's will beat an Ace every time.