Potential 'sophomore slump' for Sam LaPorta doesn't mean he'll have a bad season

Sam LaPorta's numbers feels sure to drop some in Year 2, but that doesn't mean they'll fall off a cliff and he'll have a bad season.

The learning curve for NFL rookie tight ends is steep, since they have an all-encompassing role as a pass catcher and a blocker. So the recent history of sheer production for rookie tight ends is not good, with some that pop up.

Sam LaPorta went ahead and defied that history last year, setting the new league record for receptions by a rookie tight end (86), and setting the single-season records for a Detroit Lions' tight end in yards (889) and touchdowns (10). He even finished as the TE1 in fantasy football.

During OTAs, LaPorta highlighted some finer points in his game he can hone as a blocker and a pass catcher heading into his second season. He is on track to becoming the best tight end in the NFL when Travis Kelce ages out, and Kelce himself recently heaped praise on the Lions' tight end during "Tight End U."

'Sophomore slump' doesn't have to equal bad season for Sam LaPorta

Mike Payton of AtoZ Sports recently outlined how the history of the most productive rookie tight ends in NFL history shows LaPorta will have some level of drop-off in his second season. But what would that drop-off actually look like?

To directly borrow from Payton, would LaPorta having 70 catches for 750 yards and six touchdowns this year be that bad? Compared to last year that projection is a noticeable reduction in production. But LaPorta literally set the NFL record for catches by a rookie tight end, and his yardage and touchdown totals were best by a tight end in Lions' franchise history.

LaPorta's prominent role in the Lions' offense is not going away this year. He has become a trusted target for Jared Goff, and that rapport paid off in a playoff game last year. He has improvement to do as a blocker, and a year of experience under his belt can only be a good thing.

"Sophomore slump" is just a headline term to attach to LaPorta's name as his second season approaches. Some production regression can be expected after a record-setting rookie season, but it stands to be met by better week-to-week consistency.

LaPorta is lined up to have another fine season, and the odds (barring injury) he has an unequivocal second-year slump are slim.


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