“I would not be shocked if he’s the first tight end in this class to earn compelling production on Sundays.” Read the rest of Matt Waldman’s pre-draft scouting report on tight end Sam LaPorta from the 2023 Rookie Scouting Portfolio.

Sam LaPorta is on track to have the best statistical production for a rookie tight end in the history of the game. While not my top tight end in the 2023 class, my scouting report on LaPorta was an accurate depiction of the player, how he wins, and the best landing spot for him. My eval of LaPorta generated two thoughts from a long-time customer with an extensive NFL resume:

[You] nailed the LaPorta eval; I honestly didn’t have high hipes for im short of landing in a perfect system/spot, which he did. The floor scenario literally made me laugh out loud. Damn, that’s been the epitaph of somany prospects—coach and GM in a passing contest.

Curious about what he meant? Read on.

TE Sam LaPorta #84 RSP Scouting Profile

RSP Ranking: TE3

Height/Weight: 6-3/245 School: Iowa

Player Comparison Spectrum: Evan Engram/X-Colt Lyerla

Depth of Talent Score: 86.6 = Starter: Starting immediately with a large role and learning on the go.

Games Tracked (Opponent/Date/Link):

LaPorta Iowa St ’22 Illinois ’22 OSU ’22 Totals Rec 8 9 6 23 Yds 55 92 55 202 Tds 0 0 0 0 Pinpoint (PP) Targets 7 5 3 15 Pinpoint (PP) Caught 7 5 3 15 Pinpoint (PP) Dropped 0 Pinpoint % 100% 100% 100% 100% General (G) Targets 1 1 General (G) Caught 1 1 General (G) Dropped 0 General % 100% N/A N/A 100% PP Targets vs Contact 1 2 3 PP Caught vs Contact 1 2 3 PP Dropped vs Contact 0 PP vs Contact % N/A 100% 100% 100% G Targets vs Contact 3 2 5 G Caught vs Contact 2 2 G Dropped vs. Contact 3 3 G vs. Contact % N/A 0% 100% 40% Tight Coverage Targets 3 1 4 Tight Coverage Caught 1 1 2 Tight Coverage Dropped 3 3 Tight Coverage % N/A 33% 100% 50% Miss-Tracked Targets 0 Route Mix-Up 0 Juggled 0 Difficult 0

The Elevator Pitch: Last year, Evan Engram had a catch rate of 74.5 percent, which was a career-best and only the second time he’s earned a rate above 70 percent during his six years in the league. In fact, his career rate in New York was 61.1 percent.

Sam LaPorta is Evan Engram without the history of flaws as a pass catcher, with five more pounds on his frame, and with almost the same acceleration and short-area quickness. Engram might be 1-2 steps faster but based on where they win underneath and in the middle of the field, their 40-yard Dash times are the least important metric in the comparison.

Dalton Kincaid has the most upside as a receiver in this class and Luke Schoonmaker is the best all-around option, but LaPorta might be the safest bet for receiving volume. LaPorta lacks some of Kincaid’s vertical acrobatics, but he’s sure-handed, runs good routes in the short and intermediate ranges of the field, and can make the first, second, and third man miss in the open field—or miss enough to run through a series of toothless reaches to his frame.

At 245 pounds, no NFL coach is signing off on the selection of LaPorta unless the intent is to use him as a move tight end whose primary role is the passing game. That said, LaPorta is a skilled reach blocker and competent stalk blocker.

He’ll also help on the backside or with double-teams. The rest of his blocking needs work—and he’s prone to overrunning or choosing weak angles on these other assignments.

It’s not a deal breaker for LaPorta’s career any more than it has been for Engram. It’s hard to fathom that LaPorta won’t find a landing spot that intends to use him as a high-volume receiver who does enough to help along the offensive line but is leveraging his ability to earn mismatches with linebackers and safeties.

Engram’s 73-catch, 766-yard, 4-score campaign in 2022 is what I would expect from LaPorta once he acclimates to the league and earns extensive playing time. Because the receiving game is his specialty, I would not be shocked if he’s the first tight end in this class to earn compelling production on Sundays.

Where is the player inconsistent? Tracking angles of his assignments with lead blocks, seals of the perimeter, and pulling.

What is the best scheme fit? A spread offense where he can be the second tight end and moved around the field. Or, has a big slot as part of an 11-personnel base.

What is his ceiling scenario? Seasons with 80-90 receptions, 900-1,100 yards, and 5-7 scores.

What is his floor scenario? LaPorta winds up on a team that wants to bulk him up and make him an in-line blocker because the coach and the GM are in a pissing contest and LaPorta rides the bench, plays special teams, or only sees cameo roles during the length of his first contract.

Physical: LaPorta is a feisty runner, whose quickness vision, and combative approach as a finisher help him generate yardage. He also wins against hard contact and with targets away from his frame.

Technical: There are some minor lapses with clapping onto the ball that could stall his workload if he overthinks it.

Conceptual: LaPorta earns a lot of targets against zone coverage so his manipulation techniques as a route runner aren’t on display. What he has shown is effective, but he either needs to show more or add more to his repertoire.

Intuitive: LaPorta has an excellent feel for space and anticipates pursuit well as a ballcarrier.

Build: He has nearly the same build as Evan Engram.

Releases: LaPorta delivers a violent stick out of a three-point stance coupled with a shoulder reduction to avoid the outside shade defensive end at the line as he releases from the line of scrimmage. He can take an unnecessary step with his back foot off the line and this one step can make him late with his release. This can lead the tackle to step on the back of LaPorta’s leg or feet while slanting outside.

LaPorta has a wider-than-usual two-point stance and it may lead to him taking an extra step with his back foot before rolling off his front foot when he releases from the line. In his stance, his arms hang at either side of his front knee uncrossed.

He rolls off his front foot when he releases, pumps his arms, and has his head over his knees. His pads can be a little further over his knees to optimally sell the potential of a vertical route.

He’ll deliver a hard stick to attack a cornerback’s leverage. The stick can be more violent if he plants with suddenness more than hopping into the stick, which he’s doing.

I’d almost call it a hesi, but it’s not complete enough against Iowa State. It qualified as a hesi against Illinois. There’s a good contrast of patience and suddenness with the movement. It earns him enough separation to stack a defender and he will do so.

He’ll combine the stick with a wipe. He’ll also use a double-up at the top of stems and pair it with the wipe. His wipe is physical enough to put a safety on the ground. He also has a two-quick off the line.

He reduces his shoulder against off-coverage at the top of stems. He’ll also use a double-swat.

Separation: He can hold off linebackers for 25-35 yards when he earns initial separation of 3-5 yards at the catch point. He will stack his coverage.

Route Stems: He’ll dive inside or widen outside with stems against off coverage.

Route Setups: He’ll peek at the top of stems on vertical routes when he has initial separation from a defender.

Route Breaks: He displays quick enough feet for a three-step break. He could use his sideline arm to snap the turn on the break, but he earns a friendly position to the quarterback and gets his head around in a timely manner.

His speed breaks have a flat drive step and line step. He snaps the turn and there’s some punch with the boundary side arm. He does this in the short and intermediate ranges of the field.

When breaking with a turn back to the quarterback, he will slide back to the quarterback to earn additional space against coverage.

He’ll work his way open when his first break doesn’t earn a target.

Zone Routes: LaPorta identifies the second-level defender, works to depth, and settles into the open area. Against a pair of zone defenders at intermediate depth, LaPorta will widen his stem, stair-step the late half of the stem downhill and then break outside.

Route Boundary: LaPorta is aware of the boundary on out-breaking routes and shortens his stride at the catch point to earn both feet inbounds. He’ll also drag his feet at the boundary.

Pass Tracking: LaPorta usually doesn’t leave his feet unnecessarily to catch the football. He will have lapses where he has a short hop when the ball arrives at helmet level or slightly above.

Hands/Catch Radius: LaPorta attacks targets at or slightly above the numbers with his arms away from his chest. He extends his arms for targets at or below the beltline with underhand position.

He’ll extend his arms away from his frame for beltline targets with overhand position. He can extend low and away in tight coverage for the ball with one hand but can’t hang onto the ball. He can catch the ball behind his break point and take contact to his back.

He tracks the ball over his shoulder and can leave his feet while doing so. He does have some clapping even with his hands tight to the ball.

He’ll extend below his knees at the boundary and take contact to his back as he drags his feet and lower legs in bounds. He also extends behind his break path at his back shoulder and can snatch the ball.

Position: LaPorta will pull the ball away from coverage, turning his frame to shield the opponent from the ball. He displays late hands against tight coverage.

Focus: LaPorta can make difficult catches and take contact to his legs—even targets wide of his frame although he’ll have drops as well. He can with high-point scenarios with contact to his back—even hard shots that whiplash him and end with getting planted hard to the turf on his chest. And, he can catch the ball near his frame with contact at his back and tight coverage.

Transitions: LaPorta catches and pierces with routes that have a break back to the quarterback. He obeys the ball.

Elusiveness: He can stop fast with two quick steps to force pursuit to overrun its angle and transition downhill. He uses the double up in the open field to set up pursuit over the top. He has sharp pressure cuts, and he can get his feet high enough to avoid shots to his lower legs.

He also has a nice stutter and spin combination in the flat that can freeze unblocked pursuit over the top and then avoid most of the contact.

Vision: He has a good tracking of defenders trying to cut him off and undercuts them at the right moment in response.

Power: He’ll use a stiff arm to swat past pursuit as well as ward off reaches from trailing defenders. He’ll drag linebackers or safeties wrapped behind him. Defensive linemen and larger linebackers will stalemate or push him backward. He drops his pads and floats over the top of low hits in the open field.

Ball Security: LaPorta tucks the ball under his boundary-side arm after the catch and carries it high to his frame. He will switch the ball in the open field based on the nearest defender in pursuit.

Direct Contact Balance: LaPorta can bounce and spin-off direct contact from a cornerback.

Indirect Contact Balance: He can take hard indirect contact to his pads from defensive backs and remain upright.

Blocking: LaPorta will work with urgency to attack safeties as a wide receiver in the run game when he has Most Dangerous Man assignments. He has difficulty earning position when he works inside. He either doesn’t get there fast enough or he overruns the angle.

When he’s blocking on perimeter plays and sealing defenders inside, he needs a more patient approach with short footwork. When he is working inside to get in front of a high safety or turn the safety, he needs to get there sooner. Even when he’s in line and working downhill. He fails to square the safety unless in a compressed box.

When pulling across the formation as the backside puller on Counter, he overruns his assignment.

As a stalk blocker, he’s effective with a one-arm technique to ward off opponents and impose his space onto them while sealing off a pursuit angle to the runner as he runs his feet.

When playing the wing, he’ll help double-team defensive ends, delivering and uppercut but doesn’t roll through the hips. He leans into the punch and bounces off, or he’ll use a forearm shiver.

When he earns position after working in space to reach a wind back or pulling assignment, LaPorta keeps his hands tight to reach the chest of the defender, but again, it’s a one-off strike without substantial power. However, he sustains contact with tight hands into the chest on reach blocks. He’ll move his feet, lock-in, and move a linebacker off the defender’s spot. The reach block is his strongest type of block, and he can uppercut and roll through his hips.

He has shown that he can roll through his hips when he punches and sustain a reach block with a defensive end on the front side of the formation. He doesn’t need to roll his hips to sustain blocks against slot defenders although it would be optimal. He can do enough with tight hands, a wide base, and shuffling his feet to earn a square position and contact. He’ll lock on and move his feet.

He moves his feet well enough to get square and maintain balance with cut-off blocks on the backside of run plays. He can turn defensive ends away from pursuit when locked in and moving his feet.

With intermediate routes, LaPorta will run off the defender and then tilt into the opponent and sealing him with his position and footwork.

Durability: LaPorta had no significant injuries reported.

Pre-NFL Draft Fantasy Advice: The great thing about targeting LaPorta is that he may never reach that Kelce-Kittle-Waller tier of 1,100-1,300 yards and double-digit touchdowns, but he has the game of a perennial producer of 70-80 receptions for 700-900 yards. If you’re happy with that range of top 5-7 fantasy production at the position, you can time your selection of LaPorta based on when Kincaid leaves the board. While you might get LaPorta 1-2 rounds later than Kincaid, I’d probably still feel good about taking him within 5-7 picks of when Kincaid goes.

Boiler/Film Room Material (Links to plays):

  • Sam LaPorta Career Highlights

And of course, if you want to know about the rookies from this draft class, you will find the most in-depth analysis of offensive skill players available (QB, RB, WR, and TE), with the 2024 Rookie Scouting Portfolio for $21.95-currently available for $19.95 via early-bird discount that runs through December 21, 2023.

Matt’s new RSP Dynasty Rankings and Two-Year Projections Package is available for $24.95

If you’re a fantasy GM interested in purchasing past publications for $9.95 each, the 2012-2023 RSPs also have a Post-Draft Add-on that’s included at no additional charge.

Best yet, proceeds from sales are set aside for a year-end donation to Darkness to Light to combat the sexual abuse of children.

About Author

Kay Adams