From now until the 2023 NFL Draft, we will scout and create profiles for as many prospects as possible, examining their strengths, weaknesses, and what they can bring to an NFL franchise. These players could be potential top-10 picks, all the way down to Day 3 selections and priority undrafted free agents Today, I’ll be profiling Iowa TE Sam LaPorta.
#84 Sam LaPorta, TE, Iowa (Senior) – 6032, 245lb
|Player||Ht/Wt||Hand Size||Arm Length||Wingspan|
|Sam LaPorta||6’3 1/4”, 245lb||10 1/4||32 1/8||N/A|
|40-Yard Dash||10-Yard Dash||Short Shuttle||3-Cone|
|Broad Jump||Vertical||Bench Press|
— Filled-out frame with good athleticism for the position
— Has played all over the formation from in-line, at H-back, in the slot, and out wide
— Has good speed and explosiveness as a runner after the catch
— Possesses some shiftiness to evade defenders in the open field
— Will break tackles as a runner
— Has an effective stiff arm to keep defenders at bay
— Has the play strength to make catches in traffic and work through press coverage
— Plays with good pad level, leg drive, and effort as a blocker
— Strikes his target with hands inside the defender’s chest as a blocker
— Fluid route runner for his size, getting out of his breaks clean as a former WR
— Has soft, reliable hands to secure the catch
— Generates separation at the top of his route
— Can stretch the field up the seam and be a reliable chain mover on possession downs
— Has the body control to make back-shoulder catches and work along the sidelines
— Useful in the screen game, having some shimmy to create with the ball in his hands
— Team-first player with phenomenal character and history of leadership
— Will be able to contribute on special teams
— Lacks ideal height, weight, and arm length for the position
— Isn’t dynamic in any one area as an athlete
— Has decent play strength as a blocker, but will consistently struggle against base DEs at the next level
— Occasionally will overrun blocks in space
— Arm length and lack of size may make him more of a move TE in the pros
— Can do a better job shielding off defenders from contesting the catch
— Lack of sheer size limits his conversion rate on combative catch attempts
— Senior prospect from Highland, Ill.
— Born Jan. 12, 2001 (age 22)
— First-team All-State as a junior and senior in high school, playing wide receiver and defensive back
— Second in Illinois high school history in receiving touchdowns (50) and third in receiving yards (3,793)
— Earned four letters in basketball and two in track
— Team captain in high school and college
— Saw action 12 games with two starts as a true freshman and posted 15 receptions for 188 yards
— Saw action in all eight games with five starts in 2020 and posted 27 receptions and 271 receiving yards and one touchdown
— Started all 14 games in 2021 and posted 53 receptions for 670 yards and three TDs
— Started 12 games in 2022 and posted 58 receptions for 657 yards and one TD along with two carries for six yards
— Tore meniscus in November of 2022 against Minnesota but returned to play in team’s bowl game
— First-team All-Big Ten (2022), honorable mention All-Big Ten (2020, 2021)
— Business major
Sam LaPorta went into the state of Illinois’ record books as a high school receiver but took his talents across the border and converted to TE for the Iowa Hawkeyes. The move proved to be a fruitful one as LaPorta went on to post 153 receptions for 1,786 yards (11.7 YPR) and five TDs in four seasons. Given the dismal state of the Hawkeyes offense, LaPorta’s impact far exceeds his accomplishments on the stat sheet.
When watching LaPorta’s film, you see a skilled pass catcher at TE. He can line up in-line at TE, at H-Back, in the slot, and out wide on the perimeter. His background as a wide receiver comes out on tape when working split out wide like you see in this clip here with LaPorta at the top of your screen, getting off press coverage at the LOS to get a step of separation on the slant for the first down.
Here is a similar pass completion against Illinois and S Sydney Brown, getting a step on the defender on the slant and managing to reel in the grab while getting tackled to the ground as the ball arrives, securing the reception to move the chains on third down.
LaPorta has the strength to play through press coverage and work through physical-coverage defenders like we see on this reception over the middle on the over route, making the catch in the open field as he shakes one defender in open space and picks up additional yardage on the explosive pass play.
LaPorta is fairly agile in the open field as a runner after the catch. Watch this reception LaPorta makes on the corner route to the sideline. He gets the defender off his frame and makes the catch right on the white, staying in-bounds as he avoids multiple defenders and tight-roping the sideline for a couple extra yards before getting escorted out of bounds.
Iowa trusted LaPorta to create a fair amount after the catch, getting the ball in his hands near the LOS with room to run. Here is a great example in Iowa’s bowl game this season. LaPorta catches the screen pass and makes multiple defenders miss as he gets up field and breaks a few more tackles as he gets momentum going to cap off the huge catch-and-run.
LaPorta gives his QB a reliable target over the middle of the field and in the intermediate portions of the field that can alter his route tempo and separate from coverage defenders rather routinely. Watch him work from the slot on this rep against Ohio State and break open on the out route to the bottom of your screen. He adjusts to the ball as he turns around to make the catch for the first down.
When it comes to blocking, LaPorta is going to give you his best effort with sound technique. His lack of ideal size and play strength isn’t optimal when facing base DEs, but he uses his punch and footwork to seal off defenders from getting to the football. Watch this rep where LaPorta faces Ohio State’s DE. He gets chucked early in the rep but maintains his leverage and his hands inside the defender’s chest as he reaches the defender and keeps him away from the inside run.
Sam LaPorta is an athletic TE prospect who represented himself well at the Combine and has the tape to back it up. He can win as a pass catcher from all different alignments on the field, giving an offense a reliable chain mover that can also create after the catch. LaPorta is also a capable blocker from in-line or split out, using his effort and technique to get the job done. Still, his lack of sheer size and length will likely limit his overall upside at the next level.
When finding a pro comp for LaPorta, Trey McBride of the Arizona Cardinals came to mind since McBride has near-identical size (6’3, 5/8”, 246lb, 32 1/2” arms) as well as athleticism (4.56 40, 33” vert). McBride also didn’t have great size or length coming out of Colorado State but was the first TE drafted last year, in the second round. as an athletic pass catcher that could create after the catch and also showed good technique and effort as a blocker that can play all over the formation.
I see LaPorta going in a similar range in the middle of Day Two, one who can contribute right away as a pass catcher while continuing to get stronger to become a better, consistent blocker if needed to play in-line. The Steelers have a similar player to LaPorta on the roster in Pat Freiermuth and likely want a bigger TE2 as a blocking TE. The team did formally interview LaPorta at the Combine, suggesting they are doing their homework about adding another reliable weapon for Kenny Pickett that will also compete as a blocker in Pittsburgh’s pro-style offense.
Projection: Day Two
Depot Draft Grade: 7.9 – Potential Starter/Good Backup (3rd Round)
Games Watched: at Illinois (2022), at Ohio State (2022), vs Kentucky (2022)