Los Angeles Rams rookie wide receiver Puka Nacua did just about everything that could have ever been asked of a first-year wideout. He broke the all-time records for receptions and yards in a rookie campaign while helping the Rams put together a surprise postseason berth. However, none of that was enough to surpass Houston Texans quarterback C.J. Stroud, as he was named the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year on Thursday night.
Stroud, the No. 2 overall pick by the Texans in the 2023 NFL Draft, instantly became a franchise-altering player. His rookie season was arguably among the best by a quarterback in league history. He played in 15 of the Texans’ 17 games, finishing with 4,108 yards on a 63.9 completion percentage. He tossed 23 touchdowns to go along with only five interceptions while adding another three scores on the ground.
He had the eighth-most passing yards in the NFL and the most passing yards per game (273.9) of any player that played in at least 15 games this season. His five interceptions were the fewest of any quarterback that played in at least 15 games, two less than soon-to-be MVP Lamar Jackson.
Stroud did all of this while bringing results to a Texans franchise desperate for wins. He ascended one of the worst teams in the NFL over the last two seasons all the way to the playoffs, where he won his Wild Card Weekend matchup against the Cleveland Browns. Playing in a Divisional Round in Year 1 puts the Texans several years ahead of schedule in their rebuild.
By just about any metric possible, Stroud had a phenomenal rookie season worthy of any award. However, that in no way discounts what Nacua did for the Rams in 2023, as he drastically altered their offense for the better while being a record breaker. Here is how the voting shook out with Stroud winning easily and Nacua coming in second easily, via Rob Maaddi of the Associated Press:
AP Offensive Rookie of the Year
C.J. Stroud 48-2-0 = 246
Puka Nacua 2-48-0 = 154
Sam LaPorta 0-0-40 = 40
Jahmyr Gibbs 0-0-4 = 4
Bijan Robinson 0-0-3 = 3
Zay Flowers 0-0-1 = 1
Jayden Reed 0-0-1 = 1
Rashee Rice 0-0-1 = 1
* 1st place: 5 points
2nd place: 3…
— Rob Maaddi (@RobMaaddi) February 9, 2024
Nacua finished the campaign with 105 receptions for 1,486 yards and six touchdowns. Both the receptions and receiving yards are, again, all-time rookie records. And he did this despite being the No. 1 target in the Rams offense and getting significant attention from opposing defensive backs all season. He earned All-Pro Second Team honors for his work and was integral to the Rams’ team success.
This was perhaps one of the most difficult Offensive Rookie of the Year battles in recent memory, as two players did just about everything within their power to earn that award. But ultimately, the quarterback is always favored in these toss-ups.
Puka Nacua wins best catch at Pro Bowl Games
Nacua was also given Pro Bowl honors for his incredible rookie campaign. And at the Pro Bowl games, he was awarded best catch for catching a ball while on the back of a wakeboard. The video of the catch can be seen here.