2024 Dynasty Rookie Early Look: Ja’Tavion Sanders, TE Texas
The 2023 rookie tight end class was a breath of fresh air that saw the likes of Sam LaPorta, Dalton Kincaid and Michael Mayer reinvigorate a dying fantasy position and inject some much-needed optimism for the future. The emergence of second-year tight end Trey McBride has also played a large role in the position being deeper than ever.
So, after two years of the old guard passing the baton to the young bucks, could we be in store for another bountiful tight end class? I believe the 2024 tight end class could easily produce another three relevant players in the immediate future including our featured player Ja’Tavion Sanders, so buckle up!
Sanders received a five-star rating by 247 Sports coming out of Ryan High School in Denton Texas and was so athletic that he not only played tight end but defensive end as well. As a high school sophomore in 2018, he was named the District 4-5A D-I Defensive Newcomer of the Year. In 2019 as a junior, he earned first-team all-District 4-5A D-I honors at DE. In 2020, he transitioned to wide receiver and played both WR and DE.
Courtesy of 247 Sports.
He entered college as the top-ranked tight end prospect after converting from wide receiver and was highly recruited. He received offers from some of the larger programs such as Alabama, Baylor, Florida, and Florida State before committing to play for Texas in the 2021 season.
Courtesy of Sports Reference.
Despite being a highly recruited prospect, and technically getting into 12 games in 2021 as a freshman, Sanders did not find his way onto the score sheet in the Texas passing game.
As a sophomore in 2022, he was far more involved in the Longhorns’ offense. Sanders appeared in 13 games, racking up 54 receptions for 613 yards and five touchdowns.
He performed similarly in 2023, hauling in 45 passes for 683 receiving yards but only two touchdowns. His numbers show that he was able to keep up with the elite tight end of this class – Brock Bowers – on a reception basis, but was unable to be as explosive and replicate his yardage totals. That remains the difference between the two and is why Bowers is firmly set as the TE1 in this class.
- Speed and agility make him a prime red zone target.
- Surprisingly agile and shifty in space for a player of his size.
- Great playmaker with the ball in his hands.
- His size and physicality after the catch give him a somewhat untapped YAC potential.
- Runs crisp, precise routes.
- Gets consistent separation on short and intermediate routes.
- Not afraid to make plays in high-traffic areas where he is likely to take a big hit.
- Has good speed, but not elite speed.
- Lacks the speed to get consistent separation downfield, which limits him to being used primarily as a short and intermediate target.
- Needs to improve his raw technique as a blocker.
Courtesy of Mock Draft Database.
Sanders is the consensus TE2 in what could be another strong class. Let’s make no mistake about it though, he is miles behind Brock Bowers in overall talent and potential and is closer to the second tier of tight ends such as Luke Lachey and AJ Barner.
He is ranked as high as a late first-round pick, with some analysts having him going to the Miami Dolphins with their pick that will likely be in the late 20s. That is a potentially league-winning landing spot for Sanders and if Bowers were somehow to land in a terrible spot, I could make a case for Sanders as the first tight end off the board in rookie drafts.
The consensus spot for Sanders seems to be in the 30s where he could see himself join the Texans, Bengals, or Saints.
Courtesy of DLF Dynasty Rookie Rankings.
As far as early 2024 dynasty rankings go, Sanders is in a completely different realm than Bowers. While the DLF Dynasty Rankings have Bowers going in the middle of the first rounder of rookie drafts, Sanders is currently being valued as the last pick of the second round.
This gap between Bowers and Sanders just goes to show you the difference in perceived value between the two. I personally am not a big fan of using first-round picks on tight ends as they tend to be slower in their development, and I find Sanders at 24th overall far more appealing than Bowers at fifth overall, despite the suspected gap in talent.
To further illustrate the value in Sanders, look at the next tight end in the rookie rankings. It’s Cade Stover and Luke Lachey back-to-back at picks 44 and 45 overall. If Sanders can secure a minimum of day two draft capital and a solid landing spot, he could very easily be the steal of early rookie drafts.
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