Jacksonville Jaguars make surprising pick in CBS Sports latest 2023 NFL Mock Draft
The Jacksonville Jaguars will have a wide array of options if they want to take a tight end with the 24th overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. Although prospects such as Dalton Kincaid, Michael Mayer, and even Luke Musgrave would make sense, the Jags throw a curveball at everyone and go with Iowa's Sam Laporta in CBS Sports' latest mock.
Tom Fornelli of CBS Sports and Jacksonville taking LaPorta at No. 24, noting even though he wasn't highly productive at Iowa, he's got the ability to stretch the field.
"Do not judge Sam LaPorta for his numbers in college. George Kittle was another Iowa tight end who didn't do much with the Hawkeyes, but that was more about the offense than the player. I'm not comparing LaPorta to Kittle because Kittle is a much better in-lineblocker, but LaPorta is an excellent playmaker as a receiver who can stretch defenses vertically. "
A three-star recruit in college, LaPorta was the Hawkeyes' leading receiver the last two years, hauling in 111 receptions for 1,327 yards with five touchdowns. While those don't numbers don't pop off of the stat sheet, it's important to point out that Iowa didn't have outstanding quarterback play in that span. If anything, that makes LaPorta's production look even better.
The Illinois native was a wide receiver and cornerback before switching to tight end in college. At 6'3 and 245 pounds, he could bulk off in the NFL, which should enhance his ability to gain tough yards after the catch. Also, LaPorta is a sound-route runner with solid hands. On the other hand, he lacks explosiveness and top speed, which could limit his impact in the pros.
Derrik Klassen believes LaPorta could get playing time early in his career due to his in-line blocking skills but doesn't thinks it will be tough to "see him cracking into the top two tiers of tight end play in the NFL".
The Jacksonville Jaguars could use Sam Laporta... in the third round
Sam Laporta could certainly give the Jaguars a 1-2 punch at tight end along with Evan Engram, who got the franchise tag and is set to stay in Jacksonville in 2023. However, it would be a bit surprising to see general manager Trent Baalke picking the 2022 First-Team All-Big Ten in the first round.
For starters, the Jags might have bigger needs than tight end, including cornerback, and pass rusher. Also, there might be other tight ends with a bigger ceiling available at No. 24. Last but not least, LaPorta is projected to go in the third round.
Maybe if the team's brass falls in love with LaPorta during the draft process, they could take him in the second round. But at No. 24, it looks like a reach. Make no mistake, the former Iowa Hawkeye is an enticing player that could potentially replace Engram if he doesn't return in 2024 but general manager Trent Baalke could afford to wait to take him and address other positions first.
In the end, the team that lands LaPorta will be lucky but with Michael Mayer and other top prospects available in the first round and maybe the second, LaPorta might need to wait to get his name called in the draft.