Jaguars go with TE Sam Laporta in Round 1 of 2023 NFL Draft Do-Over

The Jacksonville Jaguars go tight end instead of selecting offensive tackle Anton Harrison in the first round of Bleacher Report's 2023 NFL Draft Do-Over.

Detroit Lions tight end Sam LaPorta (87) walks off the field after practice during OTAs at Detroit Lions.
Detroit Lions tight end Sam LaPorta (87) walks off the field after practice during OTAs at Detroit Lions. / Junfu Han / USA TODAY NETWORK

The Jacksonville Jaguars believed they found a building block when they selected offensive tackle Anton Harrison in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft. But if he hadn't been available, who would the Jags have taken? Matt Holder of Bleacher Report believes tight end Sam LaPorta would have been the pick at No. 27.

Holder recently re-did Round 1 of this year's draft and had Jacksonville drafting LaPorta, with Harrison going to the Green Bay Packers at No. 13. With Harrison gone, Holder thinks the Jaguars should target LaPorta, noting that there weren't many top offensive tackles available on the board.

"While Jacksonville could target another offensive tackle, the problem is Harrison was the last tackle drafted in the first round and the next one taken off the board was Cody Mauch with the 48th pick overall, who many feel projects better as a guard anyway.

Instead, the Jags address another need, tight end, with Sam LaPorta who was been the talk of the Detroit Lions' spring practices, according to PRide of Detroit's Jeremy Reisman. "

Projected to go in the third round early in the draft process, LaPorta was the second tight end off the board. The Illinois native appeared in 40 games at Iowa and hauled in 153 receptions for 1,786 yards with five touchdowns across four collegiate seasons. Even though he lacks top athleticism and might benefit from bulking up to succeed in the NFL, his route-running and adequate blocking skills should help him thrive early on.

The Jaguars drafted Brenton Strange in Round 2 in this year's draft. The pick raised a few eyebrows in the draft because he seemed like a development prospect. However, the team's brass sees the former Nittany Lion as a culture fit with the ability to create plays after the catch.

Would the Jaguars had taken Sam LaPorta if Anton Harrison was off the board?

The Jaguars could have drafted a tight end in the first round, add a pass rusher on bolster their cornerback room. Instead, they went with Harrison because they wanted to look for a long-term replacement who could fill the void Jawaan Taylor left when he signed with the Kansas City Chiefs in free agency.

Jacksonville originally had the 24th overall pick but traded down twice, first with the New York Giants and later with the Buffalo Bills, who selected Dalton Kincaid at No. 25. Even with Kincaid off the board, the Jags had a shot at taking LaPorta, or any of the other top tight end prospects. However, they prioritized fortifying the offensive trenches.

During the pre-draft process, the Jags were seemingly interested in offensive guard O'Cyrus Torrence, who liked offensive line coach Phil Rauscher and his scheme. So if Harrison hadn't been available, Jacksonville could have taken him 27th overall and still land Strange in the second round.

Make no mistake, the Jaguars needed to replenish their tight end room despite the fact that they brought Evan Engram back with the franchise tag. With Dan Arnold and Chris Manhertz walking in free agency, the Jags need to find a TE2 and Engram's potential heir apparent. They ultimately zeroed in on Strange.

The bottom line is that Sam LaPorta is a fine player who could have a huge impact on the Lions' offense but the Jaguars would certainly choose Anton Harrison over him. They drafted Harrison in Round 1 and they would probably do it again in a do-over.

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