Lions Rookie TE Earns Big Praise for Breakout Performance

Sam LaPorta

Getty Iowa tight end Sam LaPorta makes a catch at the NFL Combine.

The Detroit Lions took some criticism when they grabbed Sam LaPorta with the No. 34 overall pick in last month’s NFL Draft, but the Iowa tight end is quickly doing his part to prove the team right in picking him.

LaPorta, who was seen as a stretch pick by some draft analysts, has earned rave reviews through the start of rookie minicamp this week. Josh Maakaron of’s All Lions identified LaPorta as one of the three standout rookies at the camp, noting that he could be headed to a big role in the Lions’ offense this coming season.

The Athletic’s Colton Pouncy noted that the tight end was far and away the best player in the group of rookies at camp.

“Sam LaPorta was the best player on the field at Lions rookie minicamp and it wasn’t particularly close,” he tweeted. “Very impressive day.”

Sam LaPorta Shows Up Former Teammate at Lions Minicamp

As Nolan Bianchi of the Detroit News reported, LaPorta’s most impressive play at minicamp came against his former teammate. The Lions grabbed Iowa linebacker Jack Campbell with the No. 18 overall pick in the first round, but he was no match for LaPorta in one-on-one drills at minicamp.

“At one point in the practice, LaPorta juked Campbell out of his shoes — these types of drills are often an advantage for the ball carrier when pads aren’t on — and taunted him on the way past,” Bianchi wrote. “The Iowa boys have brought the intensity early.”

The Lions initially got tepid reviews for taking LaPorta with a high second-round pick, with’s All Lions giving the selection a “C” grade and noting the tight end’s struggles with drops and deficiencies as a blocker. But LaPorta said at minicamp that he’s using the past criticism as motivation to be a better NFL player.

“You know, somebody called me ‘underwhelming’ one time, and I was like, ‘all right?’ I think I can play with the best of them, but if I don’t impress you, it doesn’t really matter. My play will do the talking hopefully.”

Sam LaPorta Hits the Books

LaPorta told reporters that he’s putting in a lot of work to get acclimated to the team, saying he feels pressure to get the offense down as quickly as possible.

“They demand a lot,” LaPorta said, via the Detroit News. “Very small details. I’m learning all the real intricate details of the system right now. Of course, I’ve messed them up a couple times already. You probably heard them yelling at me. Those details are really what separates you…in the National Football League.”

LaPorta, who finished his career at Iowa as the school’s all-time leader in receptions for a tight end, said he believes the Lions can have the league’s best offense this coming year. He is expected to compete for the starting tight end job in Detroit after the departure of fellow Iowa tight end T.J. Hockenson, but first said he needs to worry about getting the playbook down.

“Study, study, study,” LaPorta said, via the Detroit News. “Stay in the playbook. Ask questions. Don’t feel like you’re stupid for asking a question. Things might seem simple, but it just depends, I guess.”

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