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Puka Nacua’s Explosive Record-Breaking NFL Debut

Zach Godsey

Nacua’s physicality and explosiveness have generated offensive success for the Rams.

In the 2023 NFL draft, the Los Angeles Rams made a bold move by selecting Makea "Puka" Nacua, a promising Samoan prospect hailing from Brigham Young University (BYU). Referred to by some as the "discount Deebo Samuel," Nacua was their fifth-round pick, and he arrived with a bit of skepticism regarding his versatility. During his time at BYU, he had often been deployed as a hybrid gadget player rather than being considered a “legitimate” wide receiver. Yet, he came to play, breaking the NFL record for most receptions in the first two games as a rookie. 

His tough, physical mentality was praised by scouts, and his explosiveness was described as “devastating.” And devastate he did; over the first two games of the season, Nacua tallied an NFL-high 25 receptions, putting him ahead of big-name stars like Justin Jefferson and Tyreek Hill. His ability to gain substantial yardage after each catch made him an elite threat, as he led the NFL with 111 yards after the catch in his first two games. Such talent was evident from his time at BYU, as he would often be counted on to convert on critical fourth-downs, finding a way to “drag a defender or two, another 2 or 3 yards.” 

All this from an unheralded fifth-rounder Rams coach Sean McVay called "a real pleasant surprise" during training camp. Those who have followed Nacua’s journey longer than McVay, like the BYU offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick, saw this success coming, as he stated, "I thought that he would be a great pro, and I thought that everybody that passed on him would regret it. And looks like I'm right." However, in the wake of Nacua’s standout NFL debut, some critics attribute his success to the injury of Rams teammate Cooper Kupp, saying that his production will slow once Kupp is fully recovered. In response, Nacua, speaking about the veterans in the Rams' receiver room, emphasized that they've only "accelerated my learning." As of now, Nacua shows no signs of slowing down, firmly establishing himself as a rising star with a record-breaking start to his NFL career.


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