It was somewhat a surprise when the Detroit Lions made Sam LaPorta the second tight end of the board in the 2023 NFL Draft, but another team liked him a lot too.
With the early second-round pick they acquired in a first-round trade with the Arizona Cardinals, No. 34 overall, the Detroit Lions took Iowa tight end Sam LaPorta. Some might have thought that to be a little early to take him, especially with the widely regarded top tight end in the draft (Michael Mayer) still on the board.
But as the Lions were clearly lined up to draft a tight end, it’s clear LaPorta was high on their board.
There was (and is) certainly a lot to like about LaPorta, and he took full advantage of an opportunity to start asserting himself as the Lions’ best tight end at rookie minicamp. He should become the TE1 in short order, based on talent alone.
It’s a stretch to say another team liking a player in a draft is any sort of meaningful justification for taking him before the incoming rookie class even plays a snap. But there was another team who like LaPorta a lot.
Another team had Sam LaPorta as its No. 2 tight end in the 2023 draft
Talking to the Bleav in Bengals podcast the week after the draft, Cincinnati Bengals head coach Zac Taylor talked about the incoming class of tight ends and his team not drafting one.
"There were certainly some tight ends that we had some regard for. They got picked off pretty (quickly). Those first two, we really liked and they went with the 26th pick probably and 35th pick, I think, to Detroit, ”Those were two really good players that I think would have really helped us, but, again, we’re happy to not reach, because we felt good about the group that we had.”"
Taylor was a little bit off on the details, as Dalton Kincaid went to the Buffalo Bills No. 25 overall, and LaPorta went to the Lions at No. 34. But the sentiment holds up, with Kincaid and LaPorta as apparently the top two tight ends on the Bengals’ draft board. Their first pick was at No. 28 and tight end was seen as a need, but Taylor was glad they did not reach to take one.
An athletic pass catcher who stood out in on one of the worst offenses in college football, LaPorta had the attention of NFL teams. The Lions nabbed him in the draft, and one of the best teams in the AFC was among the teams who liked him a lot too.