June 21, 2024

Dynasty Dilemma: Sam LaPorta

5 min read

Dynasty Dilemma: Sam LaPorta

 

And we’re back for another Dynasty Dilemma. Last week, I wrote about 49ers WR Brandon Aiyuk (go check it out if you haven’t already!) Today, I will be switching positions to Tight End (TE) and highlighting a rookie who was just drafted in the 2023 NFL Draft. 2023 was a great draft for Tight Ends, starting off with Dalton Kincaid in the First Round. Kincaid is the first TE to be drafted in the first round since Kyle Pitts in 2021. To build off that, there were FIVE TEs drafted in the second round. I plan to talk about the very first one, second TE off the board, Sam LaPorta. LaPorta was drafted by the Detroit Lions with the 34th overall pick from Iowa University.

 

REASON TO BUY

 

Lions New TE1

The Detroit Lions were an ideal landing spot for Sam LaPorta. They’re a high-powered offense who have seen fantasy success for Tight Ends in the past. The Lions were a top 5 offense in the NFL last season with 45 total TDs scored, 4,281 receiving yards, and 2,179 rushing yards (6,460 total yards). Throughout OTAs and training camp, it’s become evident that the Lions want LaPorta to fit right into that TE1 role. “He’s earned the right now to be in that first-team huddle with Jared and that offensive line,” Lions offensive coordinator (OC) Ben Johnson said when asked about LaPorta. He goes on to say that “[LaPorta has proven himself] over the course of the springtime and the work that he’s put in…He’s still learning, and we are putting a lot of pressure on him to pick it up, but I think he’s in a good spot for a first-year tight end.” According to the Athletic, LaPorta is also getting work with the second and third-team offenses to maximize reps. All of this is evidence that the Lions expect LaPorta to start at TE for their season opener against the Kansas City Chiefs. 

 

Hock is Out, LaPorta is In

The Lions TE position dramatically opened up after Lions traded their star TE T.J. Hockenson to a division rival, the Minnesota Vikings. Also on their roster at TE, the Lions have Brock Wright and Shane Zylstra. Zylstra, unfortunately, suffered a serious knee injury during training camp and might miss the next 6 months. While injuries are unlucky and unfortunate, everyone around football knows they’re a part of the game. LaPorta’s only real competition for that TE1 spot is Brock Wright. Wright is mainly used as a blocking TE in the Lions offensive scheme as he only had 24 targets over 17 games played during the 2022 season. Now, what does this mean for fantasy owners if LaPorta does end up becoming their TE1? In 2020, TJ Hockenson finished as a top 5 TE with 175.3 total points (PPR) and 11 points per game (ppg). During that season, he had 6 TDs, 723 receiving yards, and 67 receptions (101 targets). During the 2021 season, Hock only played 12 games due to injury but still finished as a Top 5 TE in fantasy ppg. He averaged 12.1 fantasy ppg (PPR) with 61 receptions, 583 yards, and 4 TDs. Previous season stats tell us that Sam LaPorta is on a high scoring offense that likes to target TE and can support a Fantasy TE1. 

 

Draft Capital 

The Detroit Lions spent an early 2nd round pick on Sam LaPorta and it makes sense why. LaPorta went to Iowa University and was able to start two games his freshman year. During his sophomore year at Iowa, he started 5/8 games where he had 27 receptions, 271 yards, and 1 TD. He became a big part of the Iowa offense as a junior where he became a full-time starter. He put up over 600 yards his junior AND senior year and holds Iowa’s record for first among TEs in receptions and second in total yards. LaPorta has shown reliable hands and is great at securing the football. His strong pass catching abilities are what made him really stand out at Iowa as he’s able to use his size to make tough, contested catches while being able to hold onto the football. Additionally Iowa, under Kirk Ferentz, is known for producing great TEs that perform at a very high level in the NFL. Two Iowa alumni include George Kittle and T.J. Hockenson. Both Kittle and Hock have put up multiple TE1 seasons in the NFL and have been a huge part of their respective offenses. Kittle is well known for his yards after catch (YAC) which LaPorta has shown a similar knack for at Iowa. It won’t be long before LaPorta succeeds at the pro level. 

 

 

REASON TO SELL

 

Rookie TE

Obviously, Sam LaPorta is unproven. He’s a rookie! He’s never played an NFL snap and we have no idea how he will actually perform under the big lights. Historically, rookie TE haven’t done so well their first year. A general consensus around the league is that it takes about 3 years for a Tight End to fully develop in the National Football League. LaPorta also doesn’t have elite speed. He ran a 4.59 second 40 yard dash at the Combine which wasn’t great and not bad either. Another large aspect of being an NFL TE is being able to block. LaPorta was able to improve his blocking skills throughout his career at Iowa but wouldn’t be considered one of his strengths. We need to hope he can work on these skills to perform at the next level.

 

Crowded Offense

The Lions also spent significant draft capital on another skill position in the 2023 draft when they drafted RB Jahmyr Gibbs in the First Round. Dan Campbell has mentioned multiple times that he expects Gibbs to be a large part of their offense on the ground and in the passing game. Amon-Ra St. Brown is another superstar on this offense and a favorite target of Jared Goff. The Lions also expect to have Jameson Williams after his suspension ends before Week 7. Both young WR could hurt LaPorta’s production in the passing game. We must hope the Lions will once again be that high powered offense from last season where Jared Goff can distribute the ball to multiple targets and sustain high fantasy production. 

 

Verdict

Sam LaPorta is flying under the radar right now and I am imploring you all to take advantage. He is a Strong Buy at his current ADP.  LaPorta has ALL the skills to be a great TE in the NFL and will boast multiple TE1 seasons allowing for a very strong ROI. It’s important for Dynasty players to take advantage now and buy low this summer before he reaches the national stage this upcoming season. The Lions are a great landing spot for Sam LaPorta and training camp reports reveal their dedication to his development. His market value is on the rise, and everyone should cash in before it’s too late.

 

BUY