Sam LaPorta should the Lions' No. 1 tight end on talent alone, but he may be accelerating the team's plan for him.
Based purely on talent, Sam LaPorta became the Detroit Lions best tight end immediately upon being their choice with the 34th overall pick in April's draft. He will have to earn the starting job, of course, but no one he's joining on the depth chart would be lined up to stop him from doing so.
LaPorta was one of the clear standouts from Lions' OTAs, as could have been expected in a setting like that, where pure skill can be put on display. But with what's on a tight end's plate, having to know the offense really as well as the quarterback does due to dual roles as a receiver and a blocker, rookie tight ends generally don't put up big numbers.
Via Ben Raven of MLive, Lions head coach Dan Campbell (a former tight end himself of course) talked about what's on a tight end's plate and how LaPorta is making the transition.
"I mean, I always make this argument, besides the quarterback, the tight ends have to know more than anybody else offensively,” Campbell said. “You’ve got to know it all.... Well, it’s one of the reasons why we drafted LaPorta because we think he can handle a lot. We think he’s got versatility.....So, we’re pretty hopeful that this guy can come on sooner than later.”"
LaPorta lined up on the outside more than any college tight end last season. He's got the look of a legit weapon to raise the ceiling of the Lions' offense, which they lacked at tight end after trading T.J. Hockenson last season.
Is Sam LaPorta accelerating the Lions plan for him?
On Monday, via Lions Wire, Lions tight ends coach Steve Heiden talked about throwing LaPorta into the fire.
"“I think the biggest thing is to just try and put him in as many positions as possible,” Heiden said Monday. “That includes in the classroom, showing on film what can go on. But … it’s really about getting out here, getting on the field. Feeling the speed of the game, you know, learning on the field, on the grass. That’s the best way to go about it.”
“Throw him out there, feet to the fire and let’s go.”"
Inline, in the slot, outside as a X-receiver in two-tight end sets. Reports on the ground at OTAs had LaPorta lining up all over the field. So there are clear plans to use him in a variety of ways and extensively right away. Nothing should stop the rookie from having a big role in the Lions' offense right off the bat.