When the Los Angeles Rams took BYU receiver Puka Nacua at No. 177 overall in this year's draft, Nacua seemed to face an uphill battle for playing time. However, Rams star receiver and former Offensive Player of the Year Cooper Kupp got hurt, and Nacua has taken advantage in a big way. He's now the most bet-on player at DraftKings after Week 1 to win NFL Offensive Player of the Year, currently priced +3000 after being an extreme longshot.
Kupp will miss at least the first four games on injured reserve with his hamstring injury. Few gave the Rams a shot in Week 1 in Seattle without Kupp, but they upset the Seahawks 30-13 thanks in large part to Nacua leading the team with 10 catches and 15 targets from Matthew Stafford and tying Tutu Atwell for the team lead with 119 yards. A diving sideline grab in traffic on third down by Nacua helped the Rams ice the game in the fourth quarter. He did bang up his ribs but will play Week 2.
Nacua's 119 yards were the most in an NFL debut in Rams history and the most by any NFL player drafted in the fifth round or later since Joey Clinkscales had 150 yards in 1987 for Pittsburgh. For a point of comparison, Kupp had 76 yards in his debut. Nacua become just the fourth player in NFL history with 10 receptions and more than 100 receiving yards in his first career game, along with Keke Coutee (2018), Anquan Boldin (2003) and Sid Banks (1964).
Since targets became a statistic in 1992, Nacua's 14 were the most ever by a rookie receiver. One of the players who had held the record was Arizona's Boldin in 2003 when he won Offensive Rookie of the Year. The Rams have had four OROY winners, most recently Todd Gurley in 2015, but have never had a wideout win. League-wide, only Tyreek Hill saw more targets than Nacua in Week 1.
Nacua and Atwell, a third-year pro who had fewer than 300 career receiving yards entering Week 1 in 13 games played, became the first Rams duo with at least 100 receiving yards each in a season opener since Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt in 2003. Both Nacua and Atwell each had more receiving yards (119) than the entire Seahawks team.
Where the Rams didn't use Nacua at all was as a Deebo Samuel-type runner. At BYU, Nacua was used that way at times. He finished his collegiate career with 39 carries for 357 yards and five touchdowns. This Sunday, the Rams host the 49ers and the SportsLine Projection Model forecasts Nacua for 3.9 catches for 48 yards and 0.14 TDs.
At DraftKings, Nacua is taking the most bets post-Week 1 to win Offensive Rookie of the Year and is No. 2 in handle behind Ravens wideout Zay Flowers (+110), who had nine catches for 78 yards and two rushes for nine yards in his NFL debut.
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