The Detroit Lions have selected Iowa tight end Sam LaPorta with the 34th overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. LaPorta becomes the second consecutive Iowa Hawkeye that the Lions have selected following the selection of linebacker Jack Campbell 18th overall on day one of the draft. You can read more about what Hawkeyes head coach Kirk Ferentz had to say about the pick here.
My grade: B+
It’s easy to start screaming about positional value after the whiplash of Day 1, but I don’t think that’s a problem here. I think LaPorta is an incredible value at this pick. He’s equal parts a formidable blocker and catcher, and he’s opposite of the last Iowa tight end Detroit had in T.J. Hockenson.
LaPorta is an elite athlete who is an able and willing blocker. He’s a formidable pass catcher as well, but excels in the things Hockenson had weaknesses with. LaPorta isn’t great with contested catches, but he finds ways to make space and he was the best tight end in the country when it came to forcing missed tackles last season. I wouldn’t be concerned about LaPorta’s lack of elite stats in 2022 given the absolute trainwreck that was the Iowa Hawkeyes offense all year.
The Lions made it clear in the latter half of 2022 that they can get their less shifty tight ends into open space. Brock Wright was schemed open really well, and if LaPorta can get the same opportunities then he will excel after the catch.
I have a slight reservation about spending this draft capital on a tight end. The Detroit Lions made it clear after trading Hockenson that they can be an elite offense without having an elite tight end. If you can eliminate the need to spend significant capital on any position in the NFL, you have a huge leg up on any other team. To me, the Lions made it clear that tight end was not important in their offense, and I hoped they would continue riding that into 2023. They chose otherwise, and that’s fully understandable, but not the route I would have taken, and for that I give a slight knock on the grade.
Beyond that, the Lions are now armed and loaded at tight end. They have two very well rounded players at the position in LaPorta and sophomore James Mitchell, who will be coming off of his first full offseason this fall. Things are looking good for the Lions at the position, and I like the player and the pick here.
What grade do you give the Lions for the Sam LaPorta pick?
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