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2023 NFL draft: BYU wide receiver Puka Nacua selected by Los Angeles Rams

Nacua is the second Cougar wideout to be drafted in the past 3 years

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BYU’s Puka Nacua is the latest Cougar skill position player to be taken in the NFL draft.

BYU’s Puka Nacua is a homegrown talent and the latest Cougar skill position player to be taken in the NFL draft.

Tyler Tate, Associated Press

One of the best wide receivers to come out of Utah just became an NFL draft pick.

Former BYU and Orem High receiver Puka Nacua was selected by the Los Angeles Rams with the final pick of the fifth round (No. 177 overall) of the 2023 NFL draft on Saturday.

Nacua starred both as a Cougar and a Tiger before declaring to go pro after his junior season.

The 6-foot-2, 201-pounder caught 91 passes for 1,430 yards and 11 touchdowns over two seasons at BYU, while adding 357 rushing yards and five more scores on the ground.

That came after playing two seasons at Washington, where he totaled 16 receptions, 319 yards and three touchdowns in two seasons for the Huskies before transferring to be closer to home.

Nacua was the Deseret News’ Mr. Football as a senior at Orem High, when he led the country in receiving, averaging 166.9 yards per game, and set state single-season records with 103 receptions for 2,336 yards and 26 touchdowns.

Nacua has two brothers who’ve signed with NFL teams, though he’s the first one to be drafted. 

Brother Kai Nacua, who spent his entire college career at BYU, has played mainly on special teams for six different teams over six NFL seasons, most recently with the New York Jets. 

Brother Samson Nacua, who played at BYU for his senior year after five seasons at Utah, signed with the Indianapolis Colts last year after going undrafted but was waived prior to the regular season.

What experts said about Puka Nacua

“Nacua needs to prove he can stay healthy and on the field at the next level, but he is smart, tough and athletic with the locked-in concentration that gives him a fighting chance to earn an NFL roster spot.” — The Athletic’s Dane Brugler.

“He might need to be used as a possession receiver operating from the slot, where his ball-winning and size can work in his favor. He’s sneaky talented with the ball in his hands, so jet-sweep work in the pros could be an option.” — NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein.

“He has average top-end speed and burst, which leads to slower releases off the line of scrimmage. Defenders can re-route him at the line of scrimmage through jams, but he does a good job of contorting his body to win at the catch point.” — CBS Sports’ scouting report.

What experts said about the selection

“For a team that has cut back its travel for scouts and executives in recent years, the Rams sure do seem to like Reese’s Senior Bowl prospects — that’s their third such prospect in a four-pick span. Nacua had some Cooper Kupp-like moments in the first practice in Mobile, Alabama, before shutting it down. Injuries have followed him every year, but Nacua has a big-play track record over four years.” — Eric Edholm, NFL.com.

“Overachiever who, despite average-ish athleticism, is creative after the catch and will bounce off some tacklers. Body-contorting ability to track it down the field. Very little speed and needs to get quicker to beat press at the line.” — Chris Trapasso, CBS Sports.

BYU wide receivers previously taken in the NFL draft

Year — Player, Round, Pick No., Team

2021 — Dax Milne, Round 7, No. 258, Washington Football Team.

2009 — Austin Collie, Round 4, No. 127, Indianapolis Colts. 

2006 — Todd Watkins, Round 7, No. 218, Arizona Cardinals.

1987 — Mark Bellini, Round 7, No. 170, Indianapolis Colts.

1986 — Glen Kozlowski, Round 11, No. 305, Chicago Bears.

1984 — Kirk Pendleton, Round 11, No. 304, San Francisco 49ers.

1982 — Dan Plater, Round 4, No. 106, Denver Broncos.

1981 — Scott Phillips, Round 4, No. 87, Seattle Seahawks.

1981 — Lloyd Jones, Round 8, No. 195, New York Jets.

1972 — Golden Richards, Round 2, No. 46, Dallas Cowboys.

1968 — Phil Odle, Round 5, No. 120, Detroit Lions.

1968 — Casey Boyett, Round 9, No. 233, San Francisco 49ers.

1967 — Casey Boyett, Round 14, No. 363, Oakland Raiders.