There isn’t a player in the NFL with more receptions than Puka Nacua this season. Only two players have more receiving yards, and no one has been targeted more than the Rams rookie.
Nacua has gotten off to one of the best starts ever by a rookie, regardless of position or draft slot. He and Ja’Marr Chase are the only rookies in NFL history with 700-plus receiving yards in their first seven games, with Nacua putting up 752 through Week 7 this season; Chase had 754.
All this makes you wonder how it’s possible that Nacua isn’t the favorite to win Offensive Rookie of the Year. According to BetMGM, that honor goes to Texans quarterback C.J. Stroud, who’s undoubtedly having a fantastic season of his own. But has Stroud really been the better rookie than Nacua? Statistically, no. And it’s not close.
At -190 to win the award, Stroud has an implied probability of 65.5% to take home Offensive Rookie of the Year. Nacua is +300 to win it, giving him an implied probability of only 25%. The next-closest player after Stroud and Nacua is Jordan Addison at +900, so it’s looking like somewhat of a two-man race after seven weeks – though that can obviously change quickly.
Back to the Rams’ stud receiver, he’s the only rookie in NFL history with at least 50 catches and 600 yards in his first seven games. Beyond just rookies, his 58 receptions are tied for the seventh-most ever by a player in his first seven games of a season, and his 752 yards are the 21st-most in that span.
Again, Stroud is having a great season, throwing for 1,660 yards and nine touchdowns in just six games, leading the NFL with an interception rate of only 0.5%. His 13.1 yards per completion also lead the league, and he holds the record for the most pass attempts (177) to start a career without an interception.
What might be even more impressive is that the Texans are 3-3, considering they’re in the midst of a rebuild and led by a rookie head coach, DeMeco Ryans. If the Texans were 0-6 right now but Stroud was still putting up great numbers, would he still be the favorite? Maybe, but there’s no way the gap would be as big as it is right now.
Like Offensive Player of the Year, Offensive Rookie of the Year shouldn’t be about wins and losses. It should be about the most productive rookie in the league. Through seven weeks, that’s been Nacua. And he’s on a ridiculous pace: 141 catches and 1,825 yards.
There’s one player in NFL history who has put up at least 140 catches and 1,800 yards: Cooper Kupp in 2021 when he won Offensive Player of the Year. You’re telling me if Nacua finishes with a similar stat line, he won’t win Rookie of the Year? Stroud would have to put up some outstanding numbers to hold off Nacua, if so.
There’s a long way to go before this award is decided, but Nacua should at least be even with Stroud for Offensive Rookie of the Year. He has better than a 25% chance to win it based on the numbers he’s posted.