Puka Nacua was the gold standard of the NFL season for two weeks. Calling his numbers shocking in no way means he diminishes his talent at BYU; that is an expression of awe. Accordingly ESPNHe is the first player in NFL history to record 10 or more receptions and 100 or more receiving yards in his first two games, and his 15-reception game on Sunday is a rookie record.
He wasn’t selected until the fifth round of the NFL Draft, 177th overall, but through two weeks he leads the entire league in receptions (25) and is second only to Justin Jefferson in receiving yards (266 ).
NFL.com had its prospect’s grade at 5.80, projected as an “average backup or special teams player.” (Read the report Here). Where did scouts and analysts go wrong?
At BYU, Nacua was solid, recording 1,430 yards and 91 receptions between his final two seasons. In his fourth and final season, he showed versatility, scoring five rushing and five receiving touchdowns in nine games. There were signs, but those numbers don’t point to a breakthrough as a rookie.
To see where he found success as an NFL prospect, you have to look back to high school, particularly his senior year, where Nacua established himself as a top receiver by the numbers but didn’t quite get the analyst rating he probably deserved.
During the 2018-19 season, Nacua was one of five candidates for the All-USA Offensive Player of the Year award. USA TODAY high school sports when he recorded 103 receptions for 2,336 yards and 26 touchdowns for Orem High School (Utah). This yardage and touchdown total were Utah’s single-season records. Nacua also set Utah’s career records for receptions (260), yards (5,226) and touchdown receptions (58), according to data Gatorade, for whom he was national player of the year in 2018/19. From 2017 to 2020, Orem won the championship every year, and two of those came with Nacua leading the way.
He also managed against national competition and was named the 2018 Polynesian Bowl Player of the Year with six receptions, 93 yards and a touchdown.
— Scott Schrader (@Scott_Schrader) January 20, 2019
Despite these numbers, Nacua couldn’t quite reach the five-star category, finishing with four stars. The 247Sports Composite listed Nacua as the No. 136 player in the Class of 2019 and the No. 22 receiver overall. 247Sports itself ranked him higher, ranking him as one of the top 50 players in his class and one of the top ten receivers.
It wasn’t just the media and recruiting analysts who weren’t quite there yet with the 6-foot-3, 190-pound receiver. According to 247Sports, Nacua only had 12 college offers and he initially committed to USC before transferring to Washington and playing for the Huskies for two years before transferring to BYU in 2021.
What did we (meaning the media) and them (meaning the team scouts) miss? It’s not entirely clear. Nacua’s pace is most likely unsustainable – unless you believe he can catch 212 passes – but we probably should have been a little more prepared to surpass him early in the NFL.
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