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Discussion: Where does Sam LaPorta rank among the NFL’s top tight ends?

Sam LaPorta has already blossomed into an elite tight end. But how highly does he rank across the league?

Detroit Lions v New Orleans Saints Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

The immaculate rookie season of Sam LaPorta continues.

LaPorta is seemingly setting records on a weekly basis, and his 140-yard performance against the New Orleans Saints in Week 13 highlights how special he has been. It’s rare enough that rookie tight ends contribute as rookies. For reference, my expectation of him back in May was 500 receiving yards, which was reasonable given the track record of other top tight ends—tight ends rarely break out early.

LaPorta is anything but the norm. He has smashed the 500-yard mark, now sitting at 679 yards on 64 receptions, all while adding six touchdowns. He is now 18th in receptions and 31st in yardage, both of which are solid for a tight end. Looking exclusively at the tight end position, he is fourth in the league in both categories. That is impressive for any tight end, but to do so as a rookie is otherworldly.

Given how hot LaPorta has been to start his NFL career, the question isn’t if he is an elite tight end or not. The question is how highly do you rank him among his peers?

Today’s Question of the Day is:

Where does Sam LaPorta rank among the NFL’s top tight ends?

My answer: I think he is the third-best tight end in the NFL right now.

My top two tight ends are obvious, given how dangerous Travis Kelce and George Kittle can be. Kelce is unquestionably the best receiving tight end in the league, while Kittle pairs elite receiving ability with equally impressive blocking. I was tempted to put Ravens tight end Mark Andrews at three, but he currently sits on the Injured Reserve with an ankle injury and is likely done for the season barring a deep playoff run by Baltimore. If we are talking about the top tight ends next season, I think he and LaPorta are a close 3-4.

The controversial decision with my top three selection is having LaPorta over T.J. Hockenson. Hockenson has LaPorta beat in catches (80 versus 64) and yards (786 to 679), though LaPorta has the edge in touchdowns (six to Hockenson’s five). However, I do not think that Hockenson’s volume makes him a better tight end.

Trying to eliminate any bias regarding the former Lion and current Viking, I simply don’t see Hockenson as the playmaker LaPorta has been. Hockenson is a tight end who struggles with contested catches relative to his size and strength, and he seems plagued by an inability to eke out those few extra yards that LaPorta can—we have often joked about Hockenson’s tendency to fall down after the catch, but it is a genuine concern with his game. Watching LaPorta this season and his ability to fight through traffic has been a stark contrast to Hockenson. You can also compare their big-play ability: whereas Hockenson has a long of just 29 yards this season, LaPorta has multiple receptions longer than 30 yards, with his longest (48 yards) coming this past Sunday.

Hockenson can churn out yardage when he’s peppered with targets, but he feels less like a threat and more like a safety net. I think LaPorta acts as both in the Lions offense.

Poll

Where does Sam LaPorta rank among the NFL’s tight ends?

This poll is closed

  • 7%
    1st
    (185 votes)
  • 12%
    2nd
    (285 votes)
  • 47%
    3rd
    (1099 votes)
  • 23%
    4th
    (551 votes)
  • 7%
    5th
    (168 votes)
  • 0%
    6th
    (17 votes)
  • 0%
    7th
    (9 votes)
  • 0%
    8th
    (4 votes)
  • 0%
    9th
    (4 votes)
  • 0%
    10th or lower
    (9 votes)
2331 votes total Vote Now

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