The tight end position is always a tough one to scout because their duties as a blocker and receiver can make it like scouting two positions in one.
For Iowa tight end Sam LaPorta, it’s more like scouting four or five positions in one player. While the 6-foot-3, 245-pounder will be drafted as a “tight end”, he did a lot of everything for Iowa’s offense. He blocked and pass protected, played in-line and split out wide, created traffic for his teammates and was a primary receiving option.
The 2023 tight end class might just be the best one in recent memory, and three or four tight ends could wind up with first round consideration. LaPorta might not be among their number, but he’s a talented prospect in his own right who will certainly help an offense at the next level.
The New York Giants traded for Darren Waller and have Daniel Bellinger, but could LaPorta’s versatility appeal to Mike Kafka and Brian Daboll?
Prospect: Sam LaPorta (84)
Games Watched: vs. Iowa State (2022), vs. Michigan (2022), vs. Illinois (2022), vs. Ohio State (2022)
Games Played: 40
Yards (YPC): 1,786 (11.7 per catch)
Games Played: 12
Yards (YPC): 657 (11.3 per catch)
Best: Versatility, athleticism, blocking, competitive toughness
Worst: Separation, catch consistency
Projection: An important number two tight end or H-back, with the upside to be a TE-1 in an 11-personnel offense.
(LaPorta is Iowa TE number 84)
Sam LaPorta is a tough, athletic, and versatile tight end prospect from the University of Iowa.
LaPorta is an extremely versatile player who could be found all over the Iowa offensive formation. He lined up as an in-line and detached tight end, in the backfield as an H-back, in the slot, and as both a Flanker and X receiver. LaPorta served as both a blocker and a pass catcher from each of those alignments and was a key cog in Iowa’s offensive scheme.
He is crisp out of his stance at the start of the play, quickly establishing his blocks, getting into routes, or moving into position as a pulling blocker. He has enough play strength to lose slowly against defensive linemen, straining to sustain his pass and run blocks for his teammates. As we’ve come to expect from Iowa tight ends, LaPorta is well-coached and plays with good technique. That allows him to play with good leverage and drive linebackers off the line of scrimmage in the run game. He also has solid awareness as a pass protector and does a good job of picking up blitzes or delivering chip blocks when releasing into his routes.
He is also a very good athlete for the position and has the speed to get downfield as a blocker.
LaPorta’s athleticism shows up as a receiving option as well. He has plenty of speed to threaten defenses vertically when attacking the seams between coverage zones. He also shows solid agility when running the quick curl, stick, or crossing routes that made up the majority of his route tree.
That said, LaPorta will need to continue to work on his route running at the NFL level. He has a bit of a tendency to run his routes into defensive backs, and doesn’t generate much separation when he isn’t running vertically. Part of that could be due to a slight lack of burst out of his breaks. LaPorta’s Combine testing showed good explosive numbers, but he seems to “lumber” a bit out of his breaks on the field.
He generally does a good job of adjusting to the ball and is a “hands” catcher, though his hands can be a bit suspect. There were instances where he bobbled the ball, particularly when he had to extend to pluck the ball out of the air on poorly placed passes.
LaPorta’s balance can be an issue as well. While he has good balance when engaged with defenders, he can wind up on the ground too easily when running routes or navigating the traffic around the line of scrimmage.
Overall Grade: 7.1
Sam LaPorta projects as an important secondary tight end for an offense that runs a high percentage of 12-personnel packages. That said, he has the upside to be a starting tight end for a team that primarily runs an 11-personnel offense.
LaPorta’s athleticism and versatility stand out on tape. At times trying to find him in the Iowa formation is like playing a game of “Where’s Waldo?” On one play he can be outside of the numbers as a true wide receiver and the next he’s lined up as an H-Back in the backfield. A creative offensive mind can make good use of that versatility, as well as his ability to threaten defenses vertically with his speed when matched up on a linebacker.
As it stands now, LaPorta is a good-enough blocker to see plenty of snaps on offense as a rookie. However, he will need some development to unlock his upside as a receiver. While he was heavily used in Iowa’s passing attack, LaPorta’s route tree was relatively limited. He was well-coached at Iowa and should be able to get up to speed fairly quickly, but there are still issues in his game to be ironed out.