The 2023 NFL Draft features a slew of underrated prospects with good skillsets
The 2023 NFL Draft is under a week away, meaning we are just a few days away from seeing a new class of young talent enter the National Football League. This year’s draft class has garnered a reputation for being weak compared to previous draft classes, which is probably true. Still, there are many players who are expected to go outside of the first round but have the skills and traits to become quality players at the next level. Here are three players who are “hidden gems” in the 2023 NFL Draft.
2023 NFL Draft: Three sleeper prospects to keep your eye one
1. Sam LaPorta, Tight End, Iowa
Would you look at that? Iowa has, unsurprisingly, produced another talented tight-end prospect.
Sam Laporta is an undersized tight end, sporting a 6’3, 245 lbs. frame, but he is one of the best and most productive pass-catching tight ends in the 2023 NFL Draft.
In 2022, he caught 58 passes for 657 yards and one touchdown, leading the Hawkeyes in receptions and receiving yards. He also had a PFF receiving grade of 85.3 and averaged 2.16 yards per route run, both marks ranking top ten among all power five tight ends.
One of his best traits as a pass catcher is his ability to break tackles, which Ben Matthews noted in his breakdown of LaPorta. In 2022, he forced 20 missed tackles, a mark that ranked second in the entire nation.
LaPorta is one of the more unique tight ends in this class, as he provides a ton of versatility regarding where he can line up as a receiver. In 2022, he lined up outside for 20.5% of his snaps, an astronomically high number for a tight end. For comparison, Dalton Kincaid, another tight end in this year’s draft who specializes as a receiving threat, lined up outside for just 9.5% of his snaps in 2022.
While LaPorta’s production is impressive, that’s not the only thing to like about his profile. He also has great athleticism. At the combine in March, he recorded a 4.59 forty-yard dash (95th percentile), a 10’3 broad jump (93rd percentile), and a 6.91 3-cone (94th percentile). Pretty much all his athletic testing numbers are excellent, which is fantastic because athleticism matters a lot for tight ends.
Sam LaPorta will not be everyone’s cup of tea because he doesn’t have great size, isn’t super effective on contested catches, and doesn’t project to be a great blocker. However, he is a really good receiver with great athleticism who excels at creating separation and breaking tackles. He looks to follow George Kittle, Noah Fant, and T.J. Hockenson as the next great tight end from Iowa, and he has the talent to be good with the right team and coaching staff.