The Detroit Lions have a new tight end in town and he just so happens to come from the same place that their last big-name tight end came from. Sometimes it seems like it’s the only place that tight ends come from. In the second round of the 2023 NFL Draft, the Lions selected Iowa’s Sam LaPorta with the No. 34 overall pick.
This one has felt like a forgone conclusion for a while now, stemming back to the moment when LaPorta discussed his meeting with Lions coach Dan Campbell at the NFL Combine:
Iowa TE Sam LaPorta on meeting Lions HC Dan Campbell this week:— Ryan Fowler (@_RyanFowler_) March 3, 2023
“He [Campbell] had a big chaw in.. that was a FIRM handshake for sure.” pic.twitter.com/2b090j1sOa
LaPorta is a baller at tight end. He can block and he can also catch the ball. One big difference from the Lions' previous tight from Iowa is that LaPorta can do things with the ball after catching it.
What are your overall thoughts on LaPorta’s time at Iowa?
“He is a classic story of a player developing during his time with the Hawkeyes. LaPorta was more wide receiver than tight end at the high school level. By that I mean, he had to develop into a blocker because he basically split out in the slot at his high school.
“Injuries hit a bit in his freshman year, but LaPorta was finally out on the field at tight end after playing basically on special teams. After his second season, LaPorta had really developed into a full service tight end. He turned into a solid blocker to go with being an excellent receiver.
“He actually toyed with the idea of leaving after last season, but felt he had more work to do and came back for his senior season. That proved to be a great decision on his part.”
The Lions picked from tight end university again. What is the first difference that comes to mind when you think of LaPorta and TJ Hockenson?
“Honestly, they are pretty similar. Both were more wide receiver than tight end at the high school level. They both have really good ball skills. I think Hockenson developed his blocking skills a bit quicker than LaPorta and it’s worth noting that T.J. did get to redshirt, while LaPorta was out there catching passes by midseason.”
What are LaPorta’s strengths?
“As far as strengths, I think LaPorta is an outstanding leader. He was the leader of the Iowa offense this past year and that was a tough role as the Hawkeyes struggled all season to score points. But, his faith never wavered and he never pointed fingers. He just kept working.
“I think he’s a very good route runner and has turned himself into a pretty physical player on the line of scrimmage.”
What are his weaknesses?
“If there has been a bit of a weakness, LaPorta probably had a few more drops than you would like in his career. Though some of those were due to ball placement because of poor quarterback play.
“One other minor concern is he had his knee scoped after a minor injury in the Minnesota game near the end of the season. He came back to play in the Music City Bowl and looked like himself, so no long-term concerns, but it is worth mentioning.”
LaPorta will probably get thrust into the starting lineup pretty quickly. Do you think he’s ready?
“He would be 100% ready. Sam is a smart player and he’s ready physically and mentally for the NFL game. I think he will be a big favorite for Lions fans. He’s got a fun personality on the field too.”