Is Puka Nacua a real threat to C.J. Stroud's Offensive Rookie of the Year crown?

C.J. Stroud has had the ROTY title on lock for months, but has Puka Nacua really etched his way into the conversation?
New Orleans Saints v Los Angeles Rams
New Orleans Saints v Los Angeles Rams / Ric Tapia/GettyImages

When the king is away, it seems just anyone can sit on his thrown. The Houston Texans top offensive player, rookie C.J. Stroud, has blazed a path to notice this season. He's been one of the best quarterbacks in either the AFC or the NFC and has become one of the most elctrifying players in all of the NFL to watch.

He's doing things with the football that most seasoned pros won't even consider doing, matching power and accuracy into a scary passing attack that has seen the rebuilding Houston Texans march past the conversation of "rebuilding" and right into the conversation of "playoff contention". With the Texans now in a firm place to chase down the Tennessee Titans and Indianapolis Colts, they may just make the postseason after all.

Yet, they did fumble the bag a bit last week against the Cleveland Browns, namely due to Houston being without Stroud. His absence over the last two weeks has been felt by the Texans and the NFL as a whole. So much so that there are now contenders to his once-thought-locked-up crown. See, before the Week 14 matchup against the New York Jets, Sroud was the runaway favorite to win the Offensive Rookie of the Year. Now, however, the Texans' quarterback now has some competition in the form of the Los Angeles Rams rookie, Puka Nacua.

Nacua has emerged as a surprising player for the Rams, being drafted by the squad in this past year's NFL Draft in the fifth round out of BYU. Nacua had a lot of fans during the combine (myself included), so his having a big year wasn't surprising. What is surprising is to what degree. He's become the top target for Matthew Stafford and has racked up 1,327 yards receiving. A huge number for anyone, let alone a rookie.

But is he a real contender for Stroud's once-locked-up title? No, but maybe. If Stroud returns to form and gets the Texans to the playoffs, then the award is his. If he stumbles, plays poorly or the Texans fail to make the postseason, then Nacua may very welll take the title off of Stroud's head after all.

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