With the Super Bowl behind us, it's time to turn our attention to the NFL Draft and the incoming 2023 rookie class. Dwain McFarland discusses the pros and cons of Sam LaPorta as a dynasty prospect and what kind of fantasy impact he can make at the NFL level.

Sam LaPorta

Fantasy Outlook

Sam LaPorta's landing spot in Detroit has all the makings of a fantasy-relevant selection. The Iowa product was the second skill player drafted on Day 2, the Lions finished ‘22 in the top half in PROE, and had a need for a receiving TE. But it’s not just the overall volume LaPorta will likely receive. It's the type that may make him a fantasy star.

Jared Goff attempted 94 passes in obvious passing situations after sending T.J. Hockenson up to Minnesota. D.J. Chark and D'Andre Swift accounted for 24 of those and are no longer on the team. If Detroit wants to remain top 10 in EPA per play, Goff will need LaPorta as much as the rookie needs Goff.

LaPorta's lack of explosive plays may not make him a flashy fantasy option. However, he demonstrated the ability to earn targets which will translate to the Lions' passing attack. 

Way-too-early 2023 redraft rank: Low-end TE2


Sam LaPorta tallied 111 catches for 1,318 yards and four TDs in his final two seasons on a subpar Hawkeye offense. There must be something in the water at Iowa, as the program is notorious for turning three-star TE recruits into NFL-level talents.

The 22-year-old LaPorta started the draft process as a potential third round NFL Draft pick, but his projected draft capital has since climbed into the second round, with Daniel Jeremiah moving him inside his top 50 prospects for 2023.


Target-earning machine

Sources suggest that LaPorta earned his first target while still in his mother’s womb. He garnered target shares of 22%, 24%, and 32% over his final three collegiate seasons, and while LaPorta ran only 90 routes as a freshman, he earned a target on 23% of them.

No other Power Five TE in this class finished with a higher career targets per route run (TPRR) than LaPorta at 25%. He even edged out first-round prospect Michael Mayer, who finished his stellar college career at Notre Dame with a 24% TPRR.

Strong dominator rating

As a 20-year-old junior in 2021, LaPorta took his game to the next level with a 26% dominator rating, accounting for 27% of Iowa’s receiving yards and 25% of their TDs that season. Mayer was the only other Power Five TE prospect to cross the 20% dominator threshold by age 20.


Lack of explosive plays

LaPorta converted just 17% of his targets into receptions of 15 yards or more (32nd percentile) despite some juicy highlight-reel efforts. Additionally, only 7% of his targets came on passes of 20-plus yards downfield.

His 39th-percentile career average depth of target (aDOT) further sapped his yardage totals, as LaPorta's 1.89 career average yards per route run (YPRR) was only slightly above average.

Of course, we can’t dismiss the dismal QB play at Iowa when discussing some of the blemishes on LaPorta’s prospect profile. Iowa QBs combined for a 55% or lower completion rate over LaPorta's final two seasons even in spite of a low 8.5 aDOT. That was well below the 60% average since 2014 for teams with a similar aDOT.

From an athletic testing perspective, LaPorta quietly posted the 56th-best RAS for TEs since 1987, and his numbers were eerily similar to fellow Iowa alum George Kittle.

George Kittle Sam LaPorta RAS

There is a chance that LaPorta could offer more as a yards-after-catch receiver than what we saw from him in college given his athletic prowess and the Iowa program's history of creating powerhouse TEs in the NFL and for fantasy.

Fantasy Impact

LaPorta has shown that he is a high-end target earner every step of the way, which bodes well for his chances at the next level. His lack of size and strength are concerns for some scouts and could keep him from an every-down role early in his NFL career, but LaPorta has the athleticism to earn snaps on the downs that matter most for fantasy.

Interestingly, when we remove expected NFL Draft capital from the equation, two former Hawkeye players, Kittle and Noah Fant, compare closely to LaPorta in the Rookie TE Super Model. When accounting for projected draft capital, Jonnu Smith is a close comp for LaPorta.

In the long term, LaPorta has TE1 potential in dynasty formats and could have a sneakily-high fantasy ceiling if his lack of explosive plays in college was indeed more due to suspect QB play rather than his own deficiencies.

In redraft and best ball leagues, LaPorta is only a dart throw for 2023, but an ideal landing spot like the Cowboys could boost his chances of making an immediate impact even as a rookie.

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Dynasty Rookie Profile
Dwain McFarland
Dwain McFarland
Dwain is the Lead Fantasy Analyst and Director of Analytics of Fantasy Life. He is best known for the Utilization Report, which led to his first full-time role in the industry at Pro Football Focus. Dwain’s experience and background have helped him craft a unique voice in the fantasy football community. He has placed highly in multiple national season-long contests, including three top-five finishes at the FFPC. Before beginning his fantasy career in 2018, Dwain led product strategy and data and analytics teams for one of the largest healthcare improvement companies in the nation.