Puka Nacua goes from Round 5 to top 5 in ESPN’s 2023 re-draft

Not only was Puka Nacua one of the best rookies in the NFL this past season, but he was unquestionably the biggest steal so far. As a fifth-round pick, he set rookie records for the most receiving yards and receptions in a season, putting himself squarely in the conversation for Offensive Rookie of the Year with C.J. Stroud of the Texans.

In hindsight, it’s hard to believe every team passed on him multiple times in the draft, including the Rams, before he was selected with the final pick in the fifth round. If teams were to draft players from the 2023 class now after seeing what they did during their rookie season, where would Nacua land?

ESPN tried to answer that question with a 2023 re-draft and Nacua went from Round 5 to top 5, landing at No. 4 overall to the Colts.

The Colts’ quarterback need would have remained glaring had the picks played out this way, but Indianapolis was never nearly as high on Will Levis as some believed. Bryce Young is worth considering, but Nacua is more of a sure thing. He would give the Colts an elite skill player to pair with their eventual franchise quarterback — whenever they finally land one. Nacua broke the NFL’s single-season rookie record for receiving yards (1,486) and receptions (105). — Stephen Holder

The only players drafted ahead of Nacua in this experiment were Stroud, Anthony Richardson and Will Anderson Jr. Stroud and Anderson were awesome as rookies, and Richardson showed potential before suffering a season-ending injury.

Elsewhere in the draft, fellow Rams rookie Kobie Turner landed with the rival Seahawks at No. 20 overall. The Rams selected him 89th overall in the third round, so that’s quite the jump for him, too.

Passing on Smith-Njigba is hard, but Seattle’s run defense was awful — even after trading for defensive end Leonard Williams in October. In this scenario, Seattle would beef up its D-line with Turner, who led all rookies in sacks (nine) and run stop win rate (38%, 20th among all linemen). And it likely would have prevented the Seahawks from having to give up a second-round pick for Williams at midseason. — Brady Henderson

To make matters even worse, the Seahawks also land another Rams rookie: Byron Young. They select him at No. 52 overall, 25 picks before he actually went in the 2023 draft. Imagine seeing Turner and Young both in a Seahawks uniform now? Gross.

As for the Rams, they went with the status quo and took Steve Avila at No. 36 overall, just as they did in April. It was a slam-dunk pick and there’s no reason for them to change that now.

Story originally appeared on Rams Wire