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Puka Nacua is making it look easy. Through four games, the rookie fifth-round pick has taken the NFL by storm while putting his name in the record book in the process. 

No receiver in league history has caught more passes in his first four games than Nacua, whose 39th and most recent catch resulted in his first NFL touchdown while lifting the Rams to an overtime win over the Colts

Nacua currently leads the NFL in receptions, and his 501 receiving yards are second to only the Vikings' Justin Jefferson's 543. Nacua is on pace to have over 2,100 receiving yards this season, which would smash Hall of Fame wideout Calvin Johnson's single-season mark of 1,964 yards in 2012. 

Puka Nacua
LAR • WR • #17
REC YDs501
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Why has Nacua been able to have so much success so early? Here are five reasons why the 22-year-old has and should continue to excel in Los Angeles. 

Early success 

It's safe to say that Nacua's background is paying dividends now. 

While he's currently getting national recognition, Nacua was already somewhat of a household name in Utah after he set state prep records with 260 receptions, 5,226 yards and 58 touchdowns. During his senior season, Nacua set single-season records in all three major receiving categories en route to being named "Mr. Football 2018" by the Deseret News. 

Nacua's football roots began long before his high school success. While other kids were watching cartoons, Nacua was more interested in watching film with his father. 

"He's like a player coach," Nacua's high school coach Jeremy Hill said in a 2018 interview. "The stuff he sees, the covers and matchups, he's always coming off the field saying, 'This is what I see.' There are actually times when he's coming up with the fourth-down play or giving us his input."

Hidden gem 

Despite having a sparking prep career, Nacua's college career mimicked many high school stars who for whatever reason don't produce up to their potential in college. For Nacua, the reason for his solid yet unspectacular college stats was due to being a victim of circumstance. After breaking his foot during his freshman season at Washington, Nacua and his teammates played in just three games during the COVID-19 shortened 2020 season. 

Nacua transferred to BYU the following season and, despite being new to the program, caught 43 passes for 805 yards and six touchdowns. He battled through several injuries in 2022 but still finished as the team's leader in receptions (48), yards (625) and touchdowns (five). 

His lack of gaudy numbers in college ultimately led to Nacua slipping to the fifth round before the Rams scooped him up with the 177th overall pick. 

Physical gifts 

Like most elite players, Nacua is blessed with physical gifts. While he's not necessarily tall, the 6-1, 205-pound Nacua possesses the perfect blend of height and strength. He's tough to bring down in the open field and often uses his strength to pick up several extra yards after first contact. 

Nacua also has excellent hands, which has allowed him to make tough catches in traffic as well as on the sidelines. And while he isn't known for his speed, Nacua plays faster than his pro day 40 time of 4.57 seconds. According to Next Gen Stats, Nacua hit 21.05 mph on one of his routes this season, which is one of the six fastest speeds of any player on a route this season (h/t USA Today). 


Nacua's nine catches this past Sunday came in a variety of ways: posts, slants, deep crosses, a deep out and a bubble screen. He did most of his damage on deep crosses that included his game-winning, 23-yard touchdown catch in overtime. 

His impressive route tree is being maximized by Rams coach Sean McVay, who in many ways is using Nacua the way he's used Cooper Kupp in previous years. While he may have been a victim of circumstance in college, Nacua is in the perfect situation in Los Angeles. 

Nacua's situation is similar to what Terrell Davis experienced 28 years earlier. After being under utilized at Georgia, Davis (a sixth-round pick), flourished in Mike Shanahan's zone-blocking scheme in Denver. Davis ultimately won two Super Bowls, league and Super Bowl MVPs and is in the Hall of Fame. 

The Stafford effect 

Matthew Stafford
LAR • QB • #9
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Along with having an ideal coach in McVay, Nacua is benefitting by having Matthew Stafford as his quarterback. Stafford has a long history of successful partnerships dating to his years in Detroit. It was Stafford, after all, who served as Johnson's quarterback the year Megatron set the NFL's single-season receiving mark. 

Along with Johnson (who received his gold jacket in 2021), Kenny Golladay flourished with Stafford throwing him passes in Detroit. Golladay went over 1,000 yards in 2018 and was named to the Pro Bowl in 2019 after catching a league-high 11 touchdowns. 

Stafford's success with Kupp is well-documented. Kupp's 2021 season -- his first with Stafford -- is one of the greatest single-season receiving campaigns in NFL history. He caught 145 passes for 1,947 yards in the regular season before catching an additional 33 passes for 478 yards and six touchdowns in the playoffs. He capped off his epic year by hauling in the game-winning touchdown pass from Stafford in Super Bowl LVI. 

Nacua quickly emerged as Stafford's new go-to wideout with Kupp sidelined with an injury. While defenses surely know this, the duo has yet to be stopped through four games. One of the reasons why is Stafford's ability to freeze a defense before firing the ball to his intended target. And Stafford still has one of the most accurate arms in the NFL. 

Stafford also trusts his favorite targets to make plays even when the optics would suggest he throw somewhere else. Stafford's trust in his favorite wideouts has largely served him well during his career, and that will likely continue with Nacua, the NFL's new rising star and possible runaway pick for Offensive Rookie of the Year.