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2023 Cowboys scouting report: Iowa TE Sam LaPorta

Sam LaPorta is the latest in a long line of Hawkeyes tight ends

Iowa v Minnesota Photo by David Berding/Getty Images

Cowboys draft prospects scouting reports for the 2023 NFL Draft.

Name: Sam LaPorta
Position: TE
Height: 6’4”
Weight: 249 pounds

Sam LaPorta Career Stats, courtesy of Sports Reference

Sam LaPorta is hardly the first tight end coming out of Iowa to catch NFL scouts’ attention. Some of the names that have preceded him include Dallas Clark, Scott Chandler, T.J. Hockenson, Noah Fant, and George Kittle. That’s quite the list.

With that in mind, then, it’s wildly impressive to think that LaPorta finished his college career with more receptions and yards than any other Iowa tight end in history. After breaking down his film, it’s easy to see how he was able to accomplish such a feat.

LaPorta is a highly impressive player who just so happens to be in a very loaded tight end class this year. That complicates his draft stock, with most projections currently having him as a second- or third-round prospect. But his talent is bound to make him look like a steal.

Receiving Ability: This is LaPorta’s calling card. He’s a dangerous threat as a receiver, as evidenced by his record-setting production in an offense that struggled mightily in the pass game. He was third among all tight ends in yards after the catch this past year, and led all tight ends in broken tackles with 20; in fact, that figure ranks fifth among all tight ends over the last decade. LaPorta is a great receiving tight end who can thrive both as a catch-and-run machine or as a threat down the seam of a defense.

Hands: The thing that separates LaPorta most from the top tight ends in this class are his hands, which are just average. Drops are a problem, and he dropped 9.4% of his targets this past year, the fourth highest rate among tight ends. That’s concerning, but the silver lining is that he was still able to dominate with that issue. If he can become more consistent at the catch point, think of how dangerous he can become.

Route Running: LaPorta is an experienced, nuanced route runner. He’s very precise in the way he runs his routes, and does a great job of breaking with such suddenness that he loses his defender. Just 37.5% of LaPorta’s receptions last year were contested; only three tight ends had a lower rate than that, a testament to his ability to get open.

Blocking: He has a big enough frame to function as a sufficient blocker, and he plays with a willingness to do so as well. That lands his blocking ability in “good enough” territory, which teams can live with when there’s as much receiving production as LaPorta offers. Still, bigger defenders can overpower him easily, and better blocking techniques could help him evolve significantly in this regard.

Athleticism: LaPorta is a solid athlete, but not so much that he’ll blow anyone away with his athletic testing. He’s likely in the above average area in terms of athleticism for a tight end, and it clearly didn’t affect his ability to rack up yards after the catch.

Size: LaPorta has good size and a good frame for the position, though he’s not big enough to qualify as a size mismatch. He uses his size well in the passing lanes, though, and as a runner after the catch. Some tight ends struggle to utilize their size, but that’s not a concern for him.

Intangibles: LaPorta is a model teammate in the locker room. Iowa gave him the Team Hustle award in 2021 before naming him their Offensive MVP in 2022. He was also named a team captain this past year, on top of a long list of academic honors. He comes with four full years of experience and led the team in receptions three of those years. His combination of leadership and veteran savvy was noticeable this past year.

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