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Raiders Draft 2023: Tight end Sam LaPorta

A smooth pass catcher that will remind Las Vegas of a current Raider

NCAA Football: Iowa at Ohio State
Iowa tight end Sam LaPorta is a smooth pass catcher that has the quickness and toughness to be a reliable target in the seam or middle of the field. All traits that Raiders quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo loves to work with.
Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

Iowa is a program known for producing NFL tight ends and it certainly appears that Sam LaPorta has the pedigree and production to be another quality Hawkeye in the pros.

The 6-foot-3, 245-pound senior was a high-volume target in his final two years at Iowa providing the Hawkeyes a soft-handed target who was very tough to bring down as as senior this past season and is surely a 2023 NFL Draft pick. He’s a willing blocker that needs refinement in that area, but for a team like the Las Vegas Raiders, LaPorta would be a welcome addition to the tight end room.

Especially considering he’ll remind the Silver & Black of one of their own — Austin Hooper.

Tale of the Tape: Sam LaPorta

  • School: Iowa
  • Position: Tight end
  • Height: 6-foot-3
  • Weight: 245
  • 2022 Stats: 58 catches, 657 yards, 1 touchdown
  • Career Stats: 153 catches, 1,786 yards, 5 touchdowns
COLLEGE FOOTBALL: JAN 01 Vrbo Citrus Bowl - Iowa v Kentucky
Iowa tight end Sam LaPorta (84) doesn’t shy away from contact and deploys a solid stiff arm to keep defenders at bay and gain yards after the catch.
Photo by David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Featuring a similar all-around profile, LaPorta, like Hooper, gives teams a reliable pass catcher, willing blocker, and high-quality character traits. LaPorta was the recipient of a high-number of targets and passes thrown his way in 2021 and 2002 racking up 111 receptions for 1,327 yards and four touchdowns. His agility was on full display during his Iowa tenure as he was able to vary his speed and quickness to create separation and give the quarterback an open target.

This will come in quite handy if the Raiders give LaPorta a serious look-see as he’s a smooth operator in the seam or middle of the field — an area where new quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo thrives.

What really stood out in 2022 was LaPorta’s yards after the catch (YAC). It’s clear on game tape that when LaPorta builds up speed, his momentum is something else and he isn’t shy about contact. He’s hard to bring down and was the only FBS tight end with 20-plus forced missed tackles in 2022.

While LaPorta is a willing blocker and isn’t afraid to mix it up, the results of that are mixed. His approach to that aspect of the game isn’t as refined as his receiving chops as he often slams his way to contact instead of latching on. This results in lack of control and where his less-than-desired strength and arm length hurt him. He can often ricochets of a defender and provide momentary obstacle rather than a consistent one who can buy quarterbacks and ballcarriers alike time operate. A honed focused on proper angles and latch technique is a must-happen at the pro level. The same had placement he uses to break away from coverage is absent in his blocking work.

LaPorta is also prone to drops due to lack of focus — charted with 14 career drops, including a career-high mark of six this past season — and isn’t a stout contested-ball catcher, either. While he does well to break away from initial coverage due to his smooth footwork, solid hand in-fighting, his lack of top-end speed can result in tighter coverage on longer-developing routes.

But his formation versatility — he had a near-even mix as an inline tight end vs. a slot/wide move tight end at Iowa — and ability to be a reliable security blanket of a pass catcher in the NFL will draw the attention of teams. Surely his ability to be a bowling ball tough receiver when he’s generated his momentum is appealing. He’s also a fiery competitor that scouts have likened to fellow Iowa product George Kittle in drive, toughness, and want.

Especially for a Raiders team who not only has an unsettled tight ends room and depth chart, but also a quarterback who makes a living working the seams and middle of the field.

Projection-wise, LaPorta is earmarked as a second- and third-round prospect. Las Vegas owns the 38th pick in the second stanza and that’s too high of a landing spot. However, the Raiders do own picks 70, 100, and 109 (fourth round) which seems to be the opportune frames to land a prospect like LaPorta — who is part of a deep tight end class.