Before the 2023 season, many Lions fans, let alone NFL fans, had never heard the name Sam LaPorta. The six-foot-four, 245-pound tight end out of Iowa totaled 1,786 yards and five touchdowns during his 46-game career with the Hawkeyes.
Coming into the 2023 NFL draft LaPorta received a 6.18 prospect grade, ranking slightly lower than fellow tight ends Darnell Washington (6.38) and Michael Mayer (6.44) and eventually being picked 34th overall by the Detroit Lions. Believed to be a “Good backup with the potential to develop into a starter”, LaPorta has not let these preconceived expectations of him as a player cloud his ability to perform on the field. Here are four reasons why in just a few years, LaPorta will be one of the all-time greatest tight ends in the game of football.
Why Sam LaPorta Will be One of the Best in the League
As a Rookie, He is One of the Leading Tight Ends in the League for Receiving Yards.
In LaPorta’s nine games with the Lions, he has accumulated 492 receiving yards, ranking number five in the league. LaPorta’s competition to number one includes many veteran tight-ends, including T.J. Hockenson (681), Travis Kelce (597), George Kittle (559), and Mark Andrews (544).
While LaPorta is 189 receiving yards away from the top, it must be remembered that LaPorta has not even finished his first season in the NFL, while Hockenson, the tight end with the most receiving yards, has five seasons. With more development and training, LaPorta will be number one in no time.
Within Eight Games, LaPorta Has Broken Five NFL Records
Not only is LaPorta having one of the best rookie tight end seasons during the 2023 season, but Laporta is having one of the best rookie tight end seasons in the history of the NFL. LaPorta is taking the NFL by storm becoming the tight end with the most receptions in their first three games.
When looking at other top tight end rookie seasons, such as Hockenson, LaPorta’s stats soar well above. In just three games, LaPorta accumulated 18 receptions, half the receptions Hockenson had during his entire 2019 season. LaPorta’s record-breaking season does not just stop there. LaPorta achieved 22 receptions by his fourth game, breaking the record for the most receptions by a tight end in his first four games. He is now the first tight end to have five catches in each of their first two games and first three games. To finish off LaPorta’s list of league achievements, he has also become the first tight end to have three catches and 35 yards in their first eight games.
Not Only is LaPorta One of the Leading Tight Ends in the League for Receiving Yards, But Also for Receptions
LaPorta’s receptions are not only impressive for a rookie but for a tight end in general. Currently, LaPorta has 50 receptions placing him in fourth place for tight ends with the most receptions. Again, in LaPorta’s first nine games of the season, he is neck and neck with the best tight ends in the league. He trails not too far behind Hockenson with 71 receptions, Kelce with 57 receptions, and Evan Engram with 59 receptions.
One of the Greatest Tight Ends and Football Players of this Generation Believes He Will be One of the Greats in the Coming Years
When people think about football, Rob Gronkowski is often one of the first tight ends to come to mind. Gronkowski’s list of achievements go on and on, including four Super Bowl rings, a spot on the 2019 NFL 100 All-Time team, and five appearances in the pro-bowl. His stats speak for themselves having 621 catches, 9,286 yards, and 92 touchdowns during his 143 games played in the NFL.
There is no doubt that when 2027 rolls around, Gronkowski will earn himself a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Gronkowski knows what it takes to be a good tight end and he sees this potential in LaPorta. During his appearance on the ”Up and Adam Show”, Gronkowski comments on LaPorta’s success at such an early point in his NFL career.
“Just the way he runs his routes, He’s just very instinctive… that’s what makes a good football player”. Gronkowski praises LaPorta for his ability to produce the plays that are in the playbook, nodding at the discipline and work ethic ingrained in him as a player.
Gronkowski goes as far to say, “He’s going to be one of the highest-paid tight ends in about four years in the NFL and he is going to be one of the best tight ends in the upcoming years in the NFL”. If anyone is to predict the success of an upcoming tight end, it would be Gronkowski.
Although it is very soon to be calling any player an all-time great in the coming years, LaPorta has proved time and time again that saying this phrase when talking about his coming years in the NFL is not a stretch. The rookie has proved himself worthy by climbing up the tight end ladder in both receiving yards and receptions in just his first 10 games in the NFL. Not only is he catching the attention of Lions fans and NFL fans in general, but he is catching the eye of one of the greatest tight ends of all time, Gronkowski.
Main Image: Kirthmon F. Dozier / USA TODAY NETWORK