Iowa Hawkeyes tight end Sam LaPorta is the latest in a long line of players at his position to take their talent to the NFL. The Hawkeyes have produced three NFL starting tight ends just since 2016. This includes one of the very best in All-Pro George Kittle, Pro Bowler T.J. Hockenson, and Seattle’s Noah Fant.
Can LaPorta become the next Iowa tight end to develop into an NFL starter? Despite not being viewed among the very top crop of tight end prospects, LaPorta can still make an impact in a number of ways and certainly could start at the next level.
We’ll break down the strengths and weaknesses of LaPorta ahead of the 2023 NFL Draft while offering a draft projection and his potential impact in the pros.
Sam LaPorta measurables
- Sam LaPorta height: 6-foot-3
- Sam LaPorta weight: 245 pounds
- Sam LaPorta 40 time: 4.59 seconds
Let’s dive into our Sam LaPorta scouting report and NFL projection.
Sam LaPorta stats and background
If there’s one strong indication that LaPorta is more athletic than your typical tight end prospect, it’s that he actually played wide receiver and defensive back in high school at Highland, Illinois. Despite racking up over 3,000 yards and 50 touchdowns, LaPorta was only viewed as a three-star recruit coming out of high school, according to 247 Sports.
But the Hawkeyes saw his potential, where he’d get into 12 games as a true freshman before becoming the team’s starter for his junior and sophomore seasons. In doing so, LaPorta earned a featured role, where he was Iowa’s top pass-catcher in both 2021 and 2022. It resulted in a first-team All-Big Ten selection this past year, and when looking at his stats, it’s not hard to see why.
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|Sam LaPorta stats||Receptions||Rec. Yards||TDs||YPC|
Back-to-back strong seasons officially put LaPorta on the map in the eyes of NFL talent evaluators. Then, once he got to the NFL Scouting Combine, the 22-year-old put on an absolute show, proving he has more athleticism than many thought.
In addition to his blistering (for most tight ends) 4.59 40-yard dash time, LaPorta also showed he could leap, with a 35-inch vertical. But he also impressed with his agility, completing the 3-cone drill in just 6.91 seconds. In other words, LaPorta has already impressed with his production, but there’s a sense he may still have some untapped potential in the pros.
Sam LaPorta scouting report
Sam LaPorta is one of the most athletic tight end prospects in this year’s draft class. But just because he has slightly above-average athleticism, it doesn’t mean he is the most technically sound prospect.
LaPorta doesn’t have the most reliable hands, and if the ball is too far out of his reach, LaPorta won’t make any Odell Beckham-like incredible stretches for the ball. As Pro Football Focus points out, LaPorta has caught just 18-of-44 passes in contested situations at Iowa. But stick it on his numbers, and you can expect the Iowa product to bring it home.
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While we try our best not to compare a college prospect to one of the best players in football, we can’t help but see a bit of George Kittle’s feistiness after the catch in LaPorta too. Maybe it’s an Iowa thing.
As you can see, LaPorta can be a weapon, whether it’s his straight-line speed, ability to shed defenders, or sheer will to keep his legs churning. He’s a natural tight end who can move all over the field and still make an impact. Seeing plays like this, it’s surprising that LaPorta only had five touchdowns in his college career.
Part of his lack of opportunity in the red zone may have been due to Iowa’s overall lack of a scoring attack, as they ranked 99th and 123rd in scoring during his final two seasons. This is yet another reason why scouts believe there’s more to LaPorta’s game than we’ve seen thus far.
While there are times when LaPorta could put forth more effort as a blocker, his frame gives reason to believe this can be developed over time as he adds strength. If he can become a reliable blocker and potentially even still become a more complete receiver as far as winning 50-50 battles, LaPorta may be able to become the next great former Iowa tight end to take the NFL by storm.
- Sam LaPorta draft grade: 74/100
- Sam LaPorta draft projection: Day 2 pick
NFL projection for Sam LaPorta
Whichever team drafts LaPorta will be able to put him on the field right away. Like the start of his career at Iowa, it may not be in a featured role, but if given the opportunity, LaPorta can flourish with the ball in his hands.
We’ll stop short of saying he can become a 1,000-yard receiver, as those are quite rare from the tight end position, yet there’s no reason why LaPorta can’t be in the next tier of top possession-based tight ends in the NFL. He could very well be a 600-to-800-yard option, and if that also comes with solid blocking, which is a big if, LaPorta could become a Pro Bowl player.