Los Angeles Rams rookie standout wide receiver Puka Nacua (shoulder) was upgraded to full practice participation on Thursday after suffering an AC joint sprain in Week 13 and logging a limited practice on Wednesday. He's expected to be ready to go when the Rams meet the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday.
Addressing media members ahead of the Week 14 game against the Rams at The Bank, Ravens head coach John Harbaugh revealed that he's been a long-time fan of Puka Nacua, adding that the rookie could have ended up becoming a member of the Ravens.
"Oh yeah, I liked him. He was one of my highest-rated guys. You can ask anybody here. Ask the wide receiver coach, ask the scouts. He was way up on my board. He’s playing exactly how I thought he would, for the record."- John Harbaugh, Baltimore Ravens HC
As quoted by Ryan Mink of BaltimoreRavens.com, Harbaugh said that he "liked him," and that Nacua was "one of my highest-rated guys" ahead of the 2023 NFL Draft.
The Rams selected Nacua with the 177th pick of last spring's event, making him their fifth-round pick of the 2023 NFL draft. The Ravens, in possession of the 157th pick in that same round, decided to go in a completely different direction and picked cornerback Kyu Kelly out of Stanford.
Nacua quickly became a standout performer in the NFL fooling veteran defenders all across the field entering Week 14 with 1,029 receiving yards on 77 receptions including scoring four touchdowns in 12 games this season.
Kelly couldn't even make the final 53-man roster of the Ravens in late August, was signed by the Seattle Seahawks, then released on Nov. 11, and ultimately added to the Green Bay Packers roster which claimed him off waivers on Nov. 13. Kelly has taken 43 snaps all year long and is closer to losing his NFL job than solidifying his place in the league...
Rams head coach Sean McVay announced on Wednesday that he expects Nacua to be available on Sunday following his limited participation in that day's practice. "Puka was limited in the walkthrough, but I don’t know what the hell that means because he just did everything," McVay said per Adam Schefter.
While Nacua could have indeed been selected by the Ravens 20 picks before he went to Los Angeles, it's also true that Baltimore already picked their WR1 in the first round when they chose rookie Zay Flowers out of Boston College with the 22nd overall pick.
Flowers has been as good as advertised, hauling in 58 receptions for 613 yards and two touchdowns through 12 games this season. Asked about Flowers' numbers, Nacua himself acknowledged he has "definitely seen what he’s been doing, so it’s been so cool, especially for one of the young guys."
This marks the first and only time this season these two will meet each other on the football field, even if that's only across the gridiron as members of their respective offenses. Flowers (58) only trails Nacua (77) in receptions among 2023 rookie WRs while ranking fourth in receiving yards (613) and tied for sixth in touchdowns scored (2).