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Dynasty Rookie Draft Advice: Ja’Tavion Sanders (2024 Fantasy Football)

Dynasty Rookie Draft Advice: Ja’Tavion Sanders (2024 Fantasy Football)

This is what we’ve been waiting for, fantasy football enthusiasts. The NFL Draft is under way, and we finally get to see where the rookie prospects are going to launch their professional careers. And NFL Draft landing spots allow us to start to zero in on fantasy football and dynasty rookie draft pick values.

Throughout the draft, we’ll take a closer look at fantasy-relevant prospects, giving you an overview of their strengths and weaknesses, and assessing their fantasy value in both redraft and dynasty formats.

Let’s dig in.

2024 Dynasty Fantasy Football Guide

Fantasy Football Rookie Draft Outlook

Fitz’s Fantasy Football Outlook

The Carolina Panthers have addressed a need at tight end by taking Ja’Tavion Sanders of Texas with the first pick of the fourth round.

Sanders topped 600 receiving yards in each of his last two college seasons with the Longhorns, catching 54 passes for 613 yards and five touchdowns in 2022, and catching 45 passes for 682 yards and two touchdowns in 2023. He averaged 15.2 yards per catch in 2023 — an impressive number for a tight end.

Sanders has 4.69 speed, giving him appealing potential on seam routes. He’s good after the catch, and he has a terrific pair of hands. Sanders wasn’t charged with a single drop in 2023. He just turned 21, so there may still be some untapped potential here.

The 6-3½, 245 Sanders has suboptimal size for an NFL tight end, and he was able to do only eight reps on the bench press at his combine. It’s unlikely he’ll see much in-line work due to his lack of size and strength, and that could keep him off the field.

Sanders could start right away since the top tight end on the Carolina depth chart at the moment is Tommy Tremble. It’s possible that Sanders could earn enough talents to become fantasy-relevant right away, though it might be unwise to get too aggressive drafting Sanders, since the Panthers had the fewest passing yards in the league last season

In dynasty, I have Sanders ranked TE2 among rookies and TE21 overall. He’s likely to come off the board somewhere in the latter part of the third round of 1QB rookie drafts and in the fourth round of superflex rookie drafts.

Sanders’ predraft FantasyPros Expert Consensus ranking was TE26 in half-point PPR formats, and he had a predraft Underdog best-ball ADP of TE29. I have Wilson ranked TE29 for redraft.

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Thor’s NFL Draft Profile & Player Comp

Ja’Tavion Sanders (Texas)

6037/245 | RAS: 5.75
Player comparison: Gerald Everett

Sanders was deployed inline and out wide by Texas, and put up impressive receiving stats the past two seasons. He entered the process as the clear consensus TE2 in this class. After a disappointing pre-draft process, it remains to be seen if he’ll hang onto that designation on Draft Weekend.

Sanders always profiled as a big-slot seam-stretcher. He cannot be played inline at the next level due to his issues holding up at the point of attack. Sanders is on the smaller side, and he lacks play strength. Though he’s able to handle smaller defenders in space, he got pushed around by defensive ends in the Big 12.

Sanders’ uninspiring gamut of athletic tests cast doubt on his next-level ceiling within that usage-specific role. The good: an 82nd-percentile 4.69 forty and 91st-percentile 10-yard split. The bad: A 53rd-percentile broad jump. The ugly: A 28th-percentile vertical and 2nd-percentile bench press showing at 36th-percentile weight.

The speed and acceleration are apparent on Sanders’ tape. They’re going to have to carry the day for Sanders to be a difference-maker at the next level. There is encouraging news on that front. Sanders had some flashy reps on campus scorching up the seam and beating defenders on contested balls.

The area Steve Sarkisian leveraged that speed and acceleration more regularly was scheming Sanders into open areas of the field where he had an opportunity to hit the jets upfield after the catch. Last season, Sanders was a top-5 TE in the FBS in YAC, and, amongst that list, he had the highest aDOT.

Last year, Sanders converted a mediocre 3-of-11 targets 20+ yards downfield, including one-of-three contested targets. Interestingly, this was an area he was better at on his 2022 tape. Where he made up for it last fall was the run-after-the-catch machinations after corralling balls in the intermediate range.

Beyond the glitzy stuff, I appreciated Sanders’ body control and balance on tape. Though I saw him get mauled as an inline blocker, while in motion along his route path it’s hard to move him off it. Sanders also has vice-grip hands. In fact, last year, he dropped zero balls – his 3.9% career drop rate is the best in this class.

Sanders’ lack of strength and upper-tier agility can be seen in his meager broken tackle numbers. Even off-angle attempts in the NFL should be enough to finish him off, and, on the move, he doesn’t shake enough to force more than that.

I wonder what percentage of that YAC goodness translates to the NFL without Sarkisian calling the plays, and without Xavier Worthy and AD Mitchell drawing both the defense’s primary attention. To be fair to Sanders, two-of-his-three 100-plus yard games last year were in big spots – against Alabama and Oklahoma State in the Big 12 title.

But this should also be mentioned: Nearly half Sanders’ receiving yards last season – 329 of 682 – came in three of his 14 games. In the other 11, he was often a receiving afterthought.

Sanders offers utility to creative passing offenses like the one he played in under Steve Sarkisian at Texas. His next staff needs to understand the areas he excels in and leverage those with his usage, while steering clear of everything else.

Check out more NFL Draft profiles and player comps from Thor in our 2024 NFL Draft Guide partner-arrow

Dynasty Rookie Draft Rankings

Our analysts provide their latest rookie draft rankings below. And also check out our expert consensus dynasty rookie draft rankings!

More Dynasty Rookie Draft Advice

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