After making big catches in big moments for the BYU Cougars, WR Puka Nacua is on to the 2023 NFL Draft, and his scouting report bears careful consideration. Where does the star receiver from Provo settle in a wide-open 2023 WR class?
Puka Nacua NFL Draft Profile
- Position: Wide Receiver
- School: BYU
- Current Year: Redshirt Junior
- Height/Weight: 6’2″, 205 pounds
Before he started catching passes from Jaren Hall, Nacua was a relative unknown on the 2023 NFL Draft circuit. But those who remembered him from the 2019 recruiting class kept their eyes on him, and he eventually rewarded their patience.
Nacua was a four-star recruit in the 2019 class, and a top-150 prospect nationally. He originally signed with the Washington Huskies out of high school, joining a program that was known for its production of NFL-quality receiver talent.
Expectations were high for Nacua at Washington, especially after he put up record-breaking numbers at Orem High School. Playing high school ball just 14 minutes from BYU’s campus in Provo, Nacua put up 103 catches, 2,336 yards, and 26 touchdowns as a senior.
There’s no other word to use than “dominant” for Nacua’s high school career, but it took time for him to find his stride in college. After struggling to maintain a foothold in the rotation with the Huskies, he transferred back home to BYU. That’s when things changed.
In 2021, Nacua amassed 805 yards and six touchdowns on 43 catches, averaging almost 20 yards per catch as an emergent big-play threat. In 2022, he nearly matched those numbers. Despite missing several games due to injury, he logged 48 catches for 625 yards and five scores, while adding 25 carries, 209 yards, and five more scores on the ground.
A versatile, dynamic player for BYU, Nacua can finally say he delivered on his promise. But the work isn’t done yet. Now, it’s time to prove himself at the NFL level.
Puka Nacua Scouting Report
- Lean, well-sized receiver with an excellent catch radius.
- Has great explosive capacity and accelerates with urgent foot speed.
- Has the long speed to stack DB’s and stress the field laterally with powerful strides.
- Has a degree of lateral twitch both at the line and after the catch.
- Flashes near-elite body control and catching instincts in contested situations.
- Has shown he can extend beyond his frame and secure passes amidst contact.
- Excels at eating cushion with long-track explosiveness as a route runner.
- Able to manipulate and capitalize on DB blind spots while working upfield.
- Physical run-after-catch threat who pries through arm tackles and drives legs.
- Aggressive, high-effort blocker who seeks out contact and stacks blocks.
Areas for Improvement
- Lacks elite initial burst and often needs a runway to maximize explosive potency.
- Doesn’t show elite flexibility or freedom as a lateral mover, working best in linear modes.
- Experiences lapses in coordination at times and can be late to extend his arms.
- Hands are strong, but has room to minimize body catches and clap catches.
- Sometimes unnecessarily hops at the catch point, inviting risk of drops.
- Can be early to turn and extend for the ball at times, keying in DBs.
- Route tree is predominantly vertical and can be expanded upon.
- Doesn’t always play to his size against press and can be delayed by jams.
BYU WR Puka Nacua Current Draft Projection
As of now, Nacua grades as a priority Day 3 prospect who could potentially elevate himself into the top 100 conversation at the Senior Bowl. Opinions may vary on Nacua’s ultimate fit and projection, but he has the size, explosive long-strider athleticism, physicality, and contested ability to find a role in the NFL.
At 6’2″, 205 pounds, Nacua has great size and length, and he compounds it with his acceleration capacity upfield. Especially when he has a runway to open his strides, he can stress defenses with his speed. That speed allows him to earn one-on-one opportunities downfield and extend short passes across the middle.
MORE: 2023 NFL Draft Big Board
Nacua worked on the boundary most often at BYU, but he can also be used in motion — opening the possibilities for him as an X or Z receiver in the NFL. Beyond his physical traits, he also has a working release package, and while his route tree is mostly vertical, he flashes the necessary stopping ability and sink to develop.
Working against Nacua is an overall lack of elite traits. While he has good twitch and hip fluidity, he’s a relatively linear and streamlined athlete. His initial burst isn’t quite elite, and he needs space to maximize his speed. While he has exceptional body control, his coordination and hand technique can both be inconsistent.
All of these notes may detract a bit from Nacua’s ceiling, but he still has the necessary three-phase ability to be a quality rotational receiver and potential WR2 or WR3 at his maximum projection — well worth the price of a mid-round pick.
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