Can the Buccaneers Find This Year’s Puka Nacua in the Draft?


There has been a lot of conversation over this NFL draft cycle as to who this year’s Puka Nacua will be. That is to say, a mid round wide receiver who can step in right away and have a top ten season in terms of production. A lot to expect of any rookie, but an interesting conversation.

This is an especially intriguing conversation for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers who are in the market for a wide receiver. Also consider that it is unlikely that the Buccaneers will invest a first round pick into the position this year. So getting an impact receiver in the middle rounds is exactly what they’ll try to do.

It’s hard to find players that might fit this mold. After all, these players are falling to the middle rounds for a reason. With that said, I believe there are several prime candidate who could be this year’s Puka Nacua

4) Ricky Pearsall

Pearsall is a player that really checks all the boxes. He tested extremely well at the NFL combine; in the 99th percentile of all wide receivers since 1987. In terms of high end NFL talent, there is more than enough to work with here.

This Florida Gator has an excellent ability to start and stop his feet is very good, which means he projects as a very good route runner in the NFL. Pearsall also has very good hands and body control that allows him to catch basically everything. Really there isn’t much more you could ask for in a mid round wide receiver.

The big thing that will prevent him from going earlier than this is his overall lack of production in college. Over his five college seasons, he averaged less than 500 yards a year. However, his best season in terms of production came last year with 965 receiving yards and 4 touchdowns.

I believe that Pearsall would absolutely thrive with the Buccaneers. He has inside and outside versatility which will help him be an instant impact chess piece. The only thing that I see stopping him from being this year’s Puka Nacua is the possibility of him being drafted too early for him to really fall into that conversation.

3) Roman Wilson

It’s not often that the best wide receiver on the national championship team goes overlooked in the draft, but that seems to be the case with Wilson. He was often an afterthought at Michigan, who ran a very run heavy offensive gameplan. Throwing the ball was just not a huge part of what his offense wanted to do.

However, when life gives you lemons you learn to make lemonade. Wilson brings a gritty mindset which was partly developed by that offensive philosophy. He is great at making difficult contented catches and brings a “no block, no rock” approach to the game.

Wilson played mostly on the outside in college, but I believe he has all the skills needed to play the slot as well. He can be a quality chain mover in the NFL and should be an excellent addition to whatever team he goes to. That, of course, includes the Buccaneers.

2) Ja’Lynn Polk

“The other” wide receiver in Washington’s high flying passing attack is no slouch himself. Polk might not have the size or speed as his teammate Rome Odunze, but he is still an impressive draft prospect himself. 

Polk is extremely well rounded. Hands, route running, body control; it’s all very impressive for a day two prospect. He can play outside like he did at Washington, but I believe he will be an excellent slot receiver.

The player I have commonly compared him to is Lions All Pro wide receiver Amon-Ra St Brown. Neither are all that impressive in terms of pure speed or creating yards after catch, but have the ability to get open and catch the ball. If there was a natural replacement for Chris Godwin (should he walk away next offseason) then it is Polk.

1) Jalen McMillan

“The other other” wide receiver from Washington. McMillan is probably the player who will be drafted the latest on this list, but could be the most obvious Puka Nacua comparison. Both could be described as quicker than fast and both are primarily slot players.

However, McMillan tested significantly better than Nacua at the NFL combine. He seems faster, although he does sacrifice a little size. So many it isn’t an apples to apples comparison in terms of athletic ability, but I see a lot of similarities in their games.

Both players have excellent foot quickness and can create separation with their route running. They also both bring a toughness to the position, making their presence felt as blockers and chain movers. If you put McMillan in a role that Nacua was in last year (the same role the Buccaneers could be looking to fill this year) then I think that McMillan will thrive as a potential 1,000 yard receiver as a rookie.

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