On Sunday against the New Orleans Saints, Sam LaPorta had nine catches (on nine targets) for 140 yards and a touchdown. Targeting anyone else, Jared Goff was 7-for-16 for 73 yards with one touchdown. The rookie tight end also made some clutch catches, as he continues to deliver beyond even the most optimistic expectations for him heading into the season.
LaPorta already owned the Lions' records for catches and receiving yards by a rookie tight end before Sunday, and he now has 64 receptions for 679 yards. His sixth touchdown of the season leaves him one shy of the franchise record for touchdowns by a rookie tight end (7, Joseph Fauria in 2013). According to Stathead, his 140 yards on Sunday is the new single-game yardage record for a Lions' rookie tight end.
Tracking Sam LaPorta's run at NFL records for a rookie tight end
With all of the Lions' franchise records for a rookie tight end looking inevitable for LaPorta, since he needs one to tie to two to own the touchdown record over the final five games, let's aim higher and see where he is in NFL history for rookie tight ends.
The NFL rookie record for yardage by a tight end was set by Mike Ditka in 1961, with 1,076. LaPorta is on pace for 962 yards now, so he'll have to pick up the pace pretty significantly there. Ditka also set the record in a 14-game season, making it all the more impressive. Ditka's 12 touchdowns in 1961 is also the NFL rookie record.
The rookie record for catches by a rookie tight end is held by five-time Pro Bowler Keith Jackson, who had 81 receptions for the Philadelphia Eagles in 1988. LaPorta needs 18 catches over the final five games, 3.6 per game, to set a new record. That is definitely within reach.
LaPorta is doing things rookie tight ends rarely do. Not that the decision to trade T.J. Hockenson instead of pay him was ever a bad one, but LaPorta seemed to confirm it upon arriving in Detroit and the results on the field this season have followed in a big way.