Puka Nacua won the Offensive Rookie of the Month Award for December after having a historic season for the Los Angeles Rams. The award is the first monthly award for Nacua after CJ Stroud won the award in September and November, and Jordan Addison took the award in November.
— Los Angeles Rams (@RamsNFL) January 11, 2024
The award comes as Nacua waits to see if he will receive the NFL Offensive Rookie Award for the entire season. Early in the season, CJ Stroud appeared to be the clear leader, however Nacua did all he could to make the competition interesting late in the season.
Puka Nacua’s Special Season
Puka Nacua started off the season with a bang, becoming the fastest receiver with the most catches through five games in NFL history. His jersey was retired in the Pro Football Hall of Fame following 30 catches and 457 receiving yards.
🗣️ New to the Pro Football Hall of Fame
The jersey that Puka Nacua was wearing during Week 5 against the Eagles, when the @RamsNFL rookie wide receiver set the NFL record for most receptions in his first five career games.
— Pro Football Hall of Fame (@ProFootballHOF) October 18, 2023
Many thought that his production would slow down after Cooper Kupp returned to the starting lineup following an injury. However, Nacua was just getting started. Rather than being targeted less, defenders were forced to cover either Kupp or Nacua, often leading to one of the two being wide-open.
Following a slight lull during the middle of the season when there was injury issues with Stafford and Nacua, he once again picked up his productivity again averaging 96 yards receiving per game in the last six games. For the season, Nacua ended up breaking the NFL Rookie record with 105 catches and 1496 receiving yards. He also added six touchdowns.
Nacua vs Stroud for Rookie of the Year
Everyone knows that the quarterback is the most important position in the game. Despite an injury late in the season, CJ Stroud still appears to be the frontrunner for the award, in large part because he led the Texans to the Playoffs. Stroud may have solidified the award in the final regular season game of the year when he went 20 for 26 for 264 yards and two touchdowns in a 23-19 win over the Colts that secured the Playoff birth.
For Nacua, his biggest case is the record-breaking. There have been thousands of rookie receivers playing in the NFL, and Puka Nacua leads every single one of them in catches and yards. In most other years, this would be enough to easily win the award. For this year, however, Stroud’s accomplishments may be just too much for Nacua to win the award.
The fact that he won the final monthly award does make things a little interesting, but it likely won’t give enough momentum to ultimately win the award.
Awards vs Performance
Puka Nacua may not win the NFL Rookie of the Year Award, but that should in no way take away from what he did. There were 176 Rookie players who were drafted ahead of Nacua in the 2023 NFL Draft. Additionally, 19 receivers were picked up before the former BYU receiver. Nobody expected anything from Puka Nacua, at least not to lead the league in anything.
On the flip side, everyone had high expectations for CJ Stroud. He was the second overall pick in the NFL Draft. That isn’t to take away anything that he did this season. Any rookie quarterback who takes their team from one of the worst teams in the nation to make the Playoffs deserves to win the Rookie of the Year.
Both players had a phenomenal year. Just because Nacua likely won’t win the award, doesn’t mean he doesn’t deserve all the credit in the world.
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