Scouting Saturday: Iowa TE Sam LaPorta

"Saturday Scouting" will be another weekly FanPost feature where I focus on a player that I believe would be an excellent fit for the Chargers. We're going to focus on mid-round guys that will likely get overlooked or receive less attention in hopes of unearthing some gems that could yield some amazing returns for our Bolts.

First up on the menu: Iowa tight end Sam LaPorta.

Sam LaPorta, TE, Iowa Hawkeyes

Since actions speak louder than words, I'll drop a couple single play highlight videos to catch your attention real quick.

You gotta love a TE that can high-point like that. It's a pure hands catch through contact, and his ability to protect the ball was extremely impressive.

How about a highlight of a beautiful double move?

Sam doesn't just show flashes of being a TE with high-ceiling talent... Sam has the potential of being the best receiving tight end of this class. Hype surrounding his name is stifled from poor QB play and an overall underwhelming offense at Iowa. To illustrate the point, let's compare Sam's statistics relative to his team's total offensive production against Michael Mayer's.

  • Sam LaPorta, 6'4'' 249lbs; 2022 stats: 12 games, 58 receptions, 657 yards, 11.3, 1 TD
    • Team Production (Sam's %): 192 rec (30.2%); 2037 yards (32.3%); 7 TDs (14.2%)
  • Michael Mayer, 6'4'' 265lbs; 12 games, 67 rec, 809 yards, 12.1 average, 9 TDs
    • Team Production (Michael's %): 211 receptions (31.2), 2692 yards (30.1%), 25 TDs (36%)
There's no denying Mayer's ability in the redzone (and just overall skill-set), but LaPorta looks to be a victim of circumstance, hobbled by an anemic offense. Overall, the Hawkeyes averaged 156.7 yards and .5 TD's per game through the air, paired with 94.9 yards and .9 TD's per game on the ground. Notre Dame was averaging splits of 207.1 yards, 1.9 TD's passing and 189.1 yards with 1.9TD's rushing.

What LaPorta could have accomplished in college with a better supporting staff is worth musing over.

Biggest Area of Improvement

As LaPorta is touted as potentially the most polished receiving tight end of this class, it's easy to guess where he is often downgraded. Sam is seen as an average to below-average blocker; however, it's routinely pointed out that he shows great willingness to block on tape. A couple years of NFL instruction and focus on improving in this area will turn Sam into a much more complete player, but his receiving upside will stamp Day One Impact on whichever offense he joins.

Why Would the Chargers Draft Sam LaPorta?

The Chargers are drafting from a position of strength this offseason; assuming Tom finds ways to keep Pipkins and Tranquill on the roster, the starting lineups on both sides of the ball are essentially already set. However, the roster is extremely top-heavy with very little depth at nearly every position group. Tom has the ability to essentially draft Best Player Available in every round, and will be addressing a pressing depth need with every pick regardless of position.

Tight End is an especially sneaky position of need for us, as it's a position without an entrenched starter signed beyond 2023. Everett has one year left on his deal and while he showcased play-making flashes, he did little to establish himself as a reliable chain-mover or red zone threat, two roles teams often look to their tight ends to fill and roles that Sam LaPorta could immediately take on. With Tom showing his willingness to waive Rountree and sign him to the practice squad in his second year with the team, there's no reason to believe he'll pass on immediately upgrading the tight end room in favor of McKitty's slow and up to this point disappointing development.

Sam also shows Everett-like ability to make defenders miss when the ball is in his hands, and run through tacklers. He looks to be the type to excel in the Shanahan-style offense Staley is chasing, where fellow Hawkeye George Kittle has thrived.

Projected Round, and Where I See Value

LaPorta is projected as high as the 3rd round, and as late as the middle of Day Three. I have routinely seen him available in my mock drafts as low as the 5th.

If the Chargers do not draft one of the "top" tight ends in Rounds 1 or 2, I fully believe they should target LaPorta in the 3rd rather than risk a team grabbing him before they pick again in the 4th. He matches Tom's 3rd Round draft philosophy, possessing elite NFL traits in one area (his route running and pass receiving), while needing development in another area before being a well-rounded starter. Unlike his usual 3rd round picks, he would immediately have an established role in this offense.

If the Chargers do select a tight end in the 1st or 2nd round, the urgency to select LaPorta in the 3rd will be outweighed by other positional needs; however, should he remain on the board when the Chargers pick again in the 4th I would love to see the tight end double-dip. Having a Mayer or Darnell Washington and LaPorta would solidify the tight end room for years to come, and free up the Chargers to move on from Everett next year. A 2023 roster consisting of Gerald Everett, Donald Parham, Darnell Washington/Michael Mayer, and Sam LaPorta is not an excess of riches, it's a transition year in which each player would have a role in the offense and one could expect strides to be made in both the team's passing game and run blocking. Moving forward, unless Parham were to have a breakout year, the Chargers could choose to extend him and have a very solid three tight-end core for years to come.

Projected Round for the Bolts : 3rd-4th.

Let's wrap it up with a few more highlights:

Bolts From the Blue family - how would you feel about a Sam LaPorta draft pick?

This FanPost was written by a member of the Bolts From The Blue community and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Bolts From The Blue editors or SB Nation.