Sam LaPorta is making a run at rookie tight end history — and fantasy managers are loving it

Sam LaPorta #87 of the Detroit Lions. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Even with Tyreek Hill’s becoming the first wide receiver to hit 2,000 yards in a season — and the Cheetah’s near-weekly awe-inspiring feats leave us slack-jawed with regularity — another special season has been sneaking up on the NFL and fantasy communities.

But in Week 13, it might have crashed through the front door.

Sam LaPorta experienced a first Sunday, catching all nine of his targets for 140 yards and a touchdown. Before the 33-28 hard-fought victory in New Orleans, the rookie tight end had never hit triple-digit receiving yards in his 12-game NFL career. But with 24.50 fantasy points, he was the TE1 going into Sunday night. If this holds, it would be his second time as the top TE in a fantasy week; he hit that distinction in Week 3.

With his big game — hopefully the first of many more in the future — LaPorta has not only vaulted himself into the top tier of fantasy tight ends, but might also be authoring one of the great rookie tight end seasons in NFL history.

Please be sure to note that Andy Behrens did not make me write that line.

With 679 receiving yards through 12 games, the Iowa product is already ninth in NFL history among rookie tight ends, behind record-holder and Hall of Famer Mike Ditka in 1961. At 64 catches, LaPorta is tied for fourth all-time among rookies, trailing Keith Jackson’s high-water mark of 81 in 1988. LaPorta is on pace for 90.7 receptions, 961.9 receiving yards and 8.5 touchdowns.

If he ups his yardage pace to challenge Ditka and hit four digits in the yardage category, LaPorta would become just the third rookie tight end to surpass 1,000 yards. Kyle Pitts also did it in 2021.

Not bad for the second tight end taken in the recent NFL Draft, at 34th overall, early in the second round. Fantasy managers who took a chance on LaPorta as the TE23 taken with an ADP of 130.6 have been rewarded with the TE4 after Sunday’s command performance. That’s like walking down the street and finding a $100 bill.

For my money, the LaPorta discovery is even better.

LaPorta has stepped into a large role for the Lions and thrived. To begin the season, there were major questions as to who could be the secondary target in Detroit after Amon-Ra St. Brown. Jameson Williams was going to open the season serving a suspension. Jahmyr Gibbs’ receiving chops had draftniks singing his praises, but he was a rookie as well.

LaPorta filled that void almost from the first snap of the season. St. Brown came into Week 13 as the clear leader in targets (106) and routes run (356) for the Lions, though LaPorta is second in both categories, with 77 and 313, respectively. He has been a great complement to St. Brown in the passing game that has worked well with the Gibbs-David Montgomery running tandem to fuel one of the best fantasy offenses. And with the scarcity of top performers among the tight end position, LaPorta’s fantasy managers are feeling golden.

With the fantasy playoffs approaching, those who drafted LaPorta are likely in the running for titles. The upcoming lineup of teams, along with the Lions’ recent run of giving up points on defense, could make LaPorta a league winner.

After an outdoor game in Chicago this week, the Lions open the fantasy playoffs hosting a Denver defense that’s allowing the most fantasy points to tight ends. The Lions then play indoor games in Minnesota and Dallas, with each of those games having a chance to see a lot of points scored. Plenty of opportunities for LaPorta to make a run at Ditka, Jackson and rookie tight end greatness.

Just like we planned back on draft day. Now let's go looking for that $100 bill.