After being drafted in the second round by the Detroit Lions, it was easy to point to Sam LaPorta as a fantasy sleeper. He did well enough in the first two games this season to be declared a must-start tight end in fantasy until further notice, and he has delivered at least eight points in full PPR in all but two of 10 games since (at least 11 points six times in that span).
LaPorta had his best game of the season in Week 13 against the New Orleans Saints, with nine receptions for 140 yards and a touchdown. He now sits fairly comfortably as TE3 in fantasy (0.5 and full-point PPR) through Week 13. Not bad for a draft pick investment that was in TE2 range last summer.
Only an injury stands to keep LaPorta from finishing as a top-5 tight end in fantasy this year. That is definitely some rare air for a rookie tight end, but.....
Could Sam LaPorta finish as the TE1 in fantasy football this year?
In Week 10 LaPorta gets the Chicago Bears, who are allowing the 10th-most fantasy points per game to tight ends this season (0.5-point PPR). In full PPR, with the fifth-most receptions allowed to the position, they are allowing the eight-most fantasy points per game to tight ends.
Then it gets even better in Week 15. The Denver Broncos are allowing the most fantasy points per game to tight ends (0.5-point PPR).
A Week 16 matchup against the Minnesota Vikings doesn't look great for LaPorta, with the Vikings in the top half of the league in fantasy points allowed to tight ends. But a closer look shows they also haven't faced a lot of good tight ends, and those who are in that class (Travis Kelce, George Kittle, Dallas Goedert, Kyle Pitts, Cole Kmet) have had some level of success against them.
Week 17 is a tough-looking matchup for LaPorta. The Dallas Cowboys have allowed more than 51 yards to just one tight end all season and three of the six touchdowns they've allowed to the position came from that same player (Kittle in Week 5). But it should be a high-scoring game, and LaPorta will get a solid piece of the pie in the Lions' offense.
That's about as good a schedule as there is for a tight end in fantasy over the next four weeks. After this week, it's three straight indoor games, and we know Lions' quarterback Jared Goff does better indoors.
So can LaPorta finish as the TE1 in fantasy this year? T.J. Hockenson and Travis Kelce (TE1 and TE2 right now in 0.5 and full PPR) will have something to say about that, but I'll give LaPorta a 32 percent chance to get it done.