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Second Year Statement: Buy or Sell Puka Nacua?

Puka Nacua had the greatest rookie season ever for a WR. Despite that the debate about his value rages on. @ReflipeWThenuz dives into whether Puka is a buy or sell.

Simply put, Puka Nacua had the greatest season ever by a rookie wide receiver. That’s right, you read that correctly. If you were out of the country, under a rock, or otherwise indisposed for last season, Puka Nacua is really good at football. I was personally high on Puka from the get-go. We here at Dynasty Nerds saw the opportunity he had before him. Despite the reluctance of many in the dynasty community to properly adjust their opinions, Puka is one of the top wide receivers in all of dynasty. Throughout his historic rookie season, Nacua set numerous regular season and playoff records. Heading into 2024, the question for dynasty managers is how do we value Nacua moving forward. Without further ado, let us dive into the player and his situation.  

The Player:

To say that Puka Nacua took a long and winding path to the NFL would be an understatement. The former Utah school standout was a 4-star prospect, according to 247sports.com

Nacua had one of the best high school careers ever for a Utah wide receiver. His senior season alone would have been enough to garner multiple scholarship offers. During his final year in high school, Puka threw down 2,336 yards receiving and 26 touchdowns! Both of those numbers are state records. He also left school with career-high school records on catches, yards, and touchdowns with 260/5,226/58

College Stops:

Nacua eventually chose to attend the University of Washington. He narrowed it down to the Huskies from a list that included Arizona, BYU, California, and Nebraska. But, as we mentioned at the outset, Nacua has traveled a winding path to the NFL. Constant injury issues marred his two seasons in Washington. It was clear that things needed to change.

Eventually, it got to the point where Puka decided it would be best to transfer. He ended up choosing to come back home to BYU. Back in his home state, the injuries followed, but not to the same degree. Nacua managed to show in his limited time that he was a baller.

Receiving & Rushing Table
Receiving Rushing Scrimmage
Year School Conf Class Pos G Rec Yds Avg TD Att Yds Avg TD Plays Yds Avg TD
*2019WashingtonPac-12FRWR8716824.02000716824.02
2020WashingtonPac-12SOWR3915116.81000915116.81
*2021Brigham YoungIndWR124380518.761414810.605795316.76
*2022Brigham YoungIndJRWR94862513.05252098.457383411.410
CareerOverall107174916.314393579.25146210614.419
Washington1631919.930001631919.93
Brigham Young91143015.711393579.25130178713.716
Provided by CFB at Sports Reference: View Original Table
Generated 6/13/2024.

Throughout his college journey, Puka Nacua managed to flash big play potential. He missed several games between his time at Washington and BYU. Despite that missed action, he managed to show promise whenever the ball was in his hands. No matter if it was as a rusher, receiver, or wherever he was a threat to make a big play. You can see some of his highlights below.

Due to missing game time, Nacua did not put up the big numbers that many of his college counterparts did. That meant that being invited to one of the big college football All-Star games would be paramount to his draft stock. Puka managed to land a spot in the Senior Bowl. Throughout his time in Mobile, he shined during both practice and game action.

The fact that Puka showed so well at the Senior Bowl was paramount to the next step of his football journey. On the heels of his great work at the Senior Bowl, he participated in the annual NFL scouting combine at Indianapolis. At the combine, the youngster showed that he was more of a gamer than a gym rat. Nacua did okay but failed to stand out in any given area, as you can see below.

NFL Career:

Puka Nacua was selected in the fifth round by the Los Angeles Rams. This proved to be the best possible destination for the young receiver. Head Coach Sean McVay was looking to round out his receiving depth chart. Behind All-Pro Cooper Kupp, the Rams lacked any credible receiving threat. 

Nacua immediately caught the attention of McVay and the rest of the Rams staff. Then, opportunity came knocking on Puka’s door when Cooper Kupp was forced to miss an extended time with soft tissue injuries. When the slightest crack presented itself, Puka Nacua not only snuck through, but he kicked the door down. He exploded out of the gates. You will find his game logs below.

Regular Season Table
Receiving Rushing Scoring Fumbles Off. Snaps Def. Snaps ST Snaps
Rk Date G# Week Age Tm Opp Result GS Tgt Rec Yds Y/R TD Ctch% Y/Tgt Att Yds Y/A TD TD Pts Fmb FL FF FR Yds TD Num Pct Num Pct Num Pct
12023-09-101122.104LAR@SEAW 30-13*151011911.90066.7%7.93000000000006378%00%00%
22023-09-172222.111LARSFOL 23-30*20151479.80075.0%7.35242.000000000006986%00%00%
32023-09-253322.119LAR@CINL 16-19*757214.40071.4%10.29000000000005396%00%00%
42023-10-014422.125LAR@INDW 29-23*10916318.11190.0%16.30000160001007895%00%00%
52023-10-085522.132LARPHIL 14-23*1177110.14163.6%6.450001610000056100%00%00%
62023-10-156622.139LARARIW 26-9*74266.50057.1%3.71000000000005596%00%00%
72023-10-227722.146LARPITL 17-24*12815419.25066.7%12.83000000000006393%00%00%
82023-10-298822.153LAR@DALL 20-43*734314.33042.9%6.14000000000005792%00%00%
92023-11-059922.160LAR@GNBL 3-20*733210.67042.9%4.57000000000004781%00%00%
102023-11-19101122.174LARSEAW 17-16*757014.00171.4%10.00177.000160000005988%00%00%
112023-11-26111222.181LAR@ARIW 37-14*84276.75050.0%3.38000000000005481%00%14%
122023-12-03121322.188LARCLEW 36-19*7410526.25157.1%15.0023417.000160000004063%00%13%
132023-12-10131422.195LAR@BALL 31-37*958416.80055.6%9.33166.000000000007294%00%00%
142023-12-17141522.202LARWASW 28-20*855010.00062.5%6.25231.5000000000075100%00%27%
152023-12-21151622.206LARNORW 30-22*11916418.22181.8%14.912168.000160000006999%00%28%
162023-12-31161722.216LAR@NYGW 26-25*8511823.60062.5%14.752199.500000000006198%00%13%
172024-01-07171822.223LAR@SFOW 21-20*644110.25166.7%6.83000160000002943%00%00%
17 Games10-7-0160105148614.15665.6%9.2912897.420636100100
Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/13/2024.

As we mentioned at the outset, Puka Nacua had the best rookie season in the history of the NFL. He ended up second-team All-Pro and set the rookie record for catches and receiving yards. Nacua kept the train rolling in the playoffs. He broke the rookie record for receiving yards in a playoff game with 9/181/1 against the Detroit Lions.

The Team:

The Las Angeles Rams find themselves in a similar situation to last season. McVay and company made no significant additions to their pass catchers. Puka Nacua and Cooper Kupp will return as the top options at the receiver position. They will be joined by Demarcus Robinson, Tutu Atwell, and Tyler Johnson to round out the top end of the receiver room.

At tight end, Colby Parkinson appears to have the inside track to begin the year as the starter. He was given a multi-year deal to come over from the division-rival Seahawks. Long-time top man Tyler Higbee tore his ACL & MCL during the 4th quarter of his team’s playoff loss.

The skill position the Rams sunk the most capital into improving in the offseason was the running back room. Despite returning last year’s breakout star Kyren Williams, the team invested a third-round pick in former Michigan star Blake Corum. They will look to form a dynamic 1-2 punch.

Most importantly for Puka, the Rams will also bring back starting quarterback Matt Stafford. Last season, he developed a clear connection with his rookie playmaker. Even after Cooper Kupp returned from injury, Stafford continued to pepper Puka with targets. Some analysts believe this connection with his quarterback is what makes Nacua special. I do not subscribe to this theory, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to have a QB of Stafford’s caliber slinging the rock.

Dynasty Value:

Now, don’t get me wrong, Puka Nacua carries some nice value in dynasty leagues. He routinely goes in the first few rounds of dynasty startup drafts. However, he still represents a nice value relative to his rookie production.

Even among our rankers here at Dynasty Nerds, you will find Puka at a discount relative to his peers. We have the sophomore standout ranked as the WR10. That puts him behind the likes of Jaylen Waddle, Garrett Wilson, and even rookies Marvin Harrison Jr. and Malik Nabers. Someone, please make it make sense. Puka is coming off the best rookie season ever! He has the support of an excellent offensive staff and a competent quarterback. Sure, if he loses his coach and/or quarterback, his fantasy stock could take a hit. Is the same not true for Garrett Wilson? He is ranked on projection as if Aaron Rodgers will unlock his true potential. What happens if Rodgers never returns to form? There is risk in every dynasty play.

Final Thoughts:

While there is always risk in investing in any player, I believe that Puka Nacua represents an excellent value. He is a dynamic playmaker with the ball in his hands. Sure, he doesn’t run a 4.3 40-yard dash or jump out of the gym. However, all he does is make plays.

Nacua proved last season beyond a shadow of a doubt that he is a bonafide playmaker in the NFL. Whether Cooper Kupp was on the field or not, he made his plays. He gained the respect and trust of his head coach and quarterback. If your league mates fear that his value is tied solely to his situation, scoop him up at a discount. Do we really believe that if Stafford and McVay retired tomorrow, the team would not look for a coach and QB that would use their dynamic receiver?

No matter who is calling plays or getting him the ball, Puka Nacua is here to stay on the NFL stage. He has shown an ability to win on all field levels and on the outside or the slot. If Marvin Harrison Jr. or Malik Nabers come even close to equaling Nacua’s numbers from last year, they will be hailed as dynasty gold and talked about as first-round startup picks. If the owners in your league refuse to value Puka in this manner, do yourself a favor and scoop him up. Why take a risk on a rookie when you have already seen Puka operate as a high-end WR1? I was on to him early, and I remain a huge fan of Puka Nacua. Do yourself a favor and scoop him up wherever you can.

Thank you for reading this article! Please be sure to join the #Nerdherd, so you don’t miss out on any of the amazing things we have to offer @Dynastynerds.com. Use my promo code DynastyHolliday for a 15% off discount. You will get rankings, extra podcasts, and access to our rookie film room. For just a couple of bucks more you can get access to our revolutionary DynastyGM tool. So much for so little. Why miss out on all the fun? Also, you absolutely must check out our new mock draft tool. Find it in your Apple & Android app stores. Follow me @ReflipeWThenuz for more dynasty content and other musings.

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