Jake Butt knows what the NFL looks for in an up-and-coming tight end prospect, and he sees one coming from Iowa.

Sam LaPorta has the ability to threaten zone coverage and will make the basic catches, according to his NFL.com draft profile. Though he lacks the desired elusiveness and ball skills to come away with the more challenging catches, LaPorta takes on run-blocking chores with inconsistent positioning but has the potential to improve with more work in that phase of the game. His catch production is splashy, but he appears to have average-starter potential at the next level.

LaPorta made 58 catches for 657 yards and a touchdown last season for Iowa.

“Iowa has become Tight End U.,” Butt said on the Big Ten Network. “I played with Noah Fant in the NFL, we see George Kittle. T. J. Hockenson, another guy that’s one of the best to do it. Sam LaPorta looks to be the next in line, and when you look at a complete tight end, you say the blocking aspect has been discredited, there’s not as much value. Well, one thing we know they teach at Iowa is how to run block, and pass block. So he’s got that part down. But he’s got a nuance to his route running ability too. There’s a certain feel. He’s got all the speed and agility to run all the basic routes. But what makes him elite to me is the feel. He knows where the zone defenders are, he knows how to separate with some nuance and some arc.
Butt projected LaPorta will catch at least 40 passes a season in the NFL for the next 8 to 10 years, and he’ll be a quarterback’s best friend.