Fantasy Football: Sam LaPorta's Fit with the Detriot Lions

May 02, 2023
Sam LaPorta's Fit with the Detriot Lions

As the second tight end drafted in a deeper positional class than usual, Sam LaPorta was selected by the Detroit Lions with the 34th overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. He joins a young and exciting Detroit roster that traded their starting TE T.J. Hockenson to the Vikings midway through last season, landing in an ideal spot to make an immediate impact in the NFL.

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Sam LaPorta as a Prospect

Iowa has had no shortage of TEs in recent draft classes and this year’s addition to the NFL posted 153 catches for 1,786 yards and five touchdowns in his four years as a Hawkeye. More importantly, LaPorta managed over 50 catches and 650+ yards in each of his last two seasons, all while part of a non-efficient offense with poor quarterback play.

LaPorta brings speed to the Lions with the third-fastest 40-yard dash (4.59) and second-quickest 3-cone drill time (6.91) among TEs. The 22-year-old is a problem for defenses with the ball in his hands, as he posted 368 yards after the catch in 2022, the second most behind Dalton Kincaid.

LaPorta’s Role as a Lion

After three years with volume ranging from TE5 in targets to TE20, fellow Iowa alum T.J. Hockenson was traded to the Vikings midway through the 2023 season, leaving Detroit with the combination of Brock Wright, Shane Zylstra, and James Mitchell at the position. This uninspiring trio managed to put nine touchdowns on the board but the target share for TE dropped from 18.1% to Hockenson in the first seven contests, to no more than 5.7% for the remaining three in the TE room.

LaPorta will have the rare chance for a rookie to be the No. 2 passing option behind Amon-Ra St. Brown as the clear starting TE for Detroit. Sophomore WR Jameson Williams will be serving a six-game suspension for violating the league’s anti-gambling policy and we’re looking at Josh Reynolds, Kalif Raymond, and Marvin Jones Jr. as the other receiving options he’ll have to contend with for work. The Lions have 67 available TE targets, 227 overall, so there’s certainly opportunity for big numbers from LaPorta at the start of his career.

The RB room got a new look this offseason as well, and will likely be in the mix when it comes to pass-catching volume. Jamaal Williams, D’Andre Swift, and Justin Jackson combined for 72 receptions on 105 targets last year, which is fairly hefty for the position. The Lions drafted Jahmyr Gibbs with the 12th overall pick while shipping Swift to the Eagles, presumably with the intention for Gibbs to take on a large role in the passing game. Free agent signee David Montgomery was also added in March and is capable of hauling in his share of targets, as well.

How to Draft the Lions Offense for Fantasy Football

While it’s easy to look at LaPorta’s opportunity in this emerging offense and declare him a fantasy TE1, history tells us that rookies rarely pan out in their first season for fake football purposes. Post NFL draft, the 22-year-old is leaving Underdog boards as the TE27 at pick 17.03 which is solid value considering his potential in 2023. A fantasy TE2 outcome is well within the realm of possibility for the rookie with a possible chance to sneak into the top 15.

Amon-Ra St. Brown is pricey but should be worth the opportunity cost as WR10 at pick 17, with both Jahmyr Gibbs and David Montgomery considered fantasy RB2s. The remainder of the Lions receiving corps is all very inexpensive making this offense one of the easiest and cheapest to stack in best ball formats.

Bottom Line

  • Sam LaPorta is a YAC monster, racking up 368 yards after the catch last season at Iowa, the second most among college TEs.
  • He joins a TE room devoid of elite talent and should slide right in as the starter in 2023, perhaps becoming the team’s No. 2 passing option behind WR Amon-Ra St. Brown.
  • LaPorta has the opportunity of a fantasy TE1 but with rookie expectations tempered, is considered a TE2 with plenty of upside. His APD is currently TE27 at pick 17.03, presenting drafters with solid value in Underdog formats.
  • With only Amon-Ra St. Brown boasting a single-digit price tag, LaPorta and the entire Detroit offense make for desirable and inexpensive stacking options later in your best ball drafts.
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