Why the Slide?: Ja’Tavion Sanders, TE, Texas

Ja'Tavion Sanders

This series was created a number of years ago in response to questions about why certain well-known prospects went unselected in NFL drafts. For these articles, I reach out to sources with NFL teams to find out why their organizations passed on drafting a given player, and/or, what were the reasons for other teams to pass on that prospect. The positive response to “Why Undrafted” and questions from readers about why prospects were drafted lower than the media expectations led us to create the parallel series “Why the Slide?”

Both series are back this year. Feel free to email me requests for Why the Slide? and Why Undrafted? at [email protected]. I can’t promise to get to all of them, but I will do my best and definitely will respond to the email.

The 2024 NFL Draft was known to not be a strong year for tight end talent. Georgia’s Brock Bowers was a consensus top-16 talent, but after him many believed that Texas’ Ja’Tavion Sanders would be the next tight end to be taken in the draft, but on Day 2. Sanders was a receiving weapon for the Longhorns and made some clutch plays to help them advance to the college football playoff in 2023. Many felt that Sanders could go as high as the back half of the second round or the third round. Thus, it was a surprise when he slipped to the final day of the 2024 NFL Draft.

In speaking to team sources, Sanders slid because of limitations as a blocker and not having an overly dynamic skill set.

The Carolina Panthers ended Sanders’ slide when they selected him at the very top of the fourth round. Carolina was a fantastic landing spot for Sanders, as he could compete immediately to be the starter. Veteran Tommy Tremble was a pick of the previous regime, and Ian Thomas was a pick of the regime before that, the Ron Rivera coaching staff and Marty Hurney front office. Last season, Tremble only had 23 catches for 194 yards while Thomas had five catches for 56 yards. Clearly, the Panthers could use a receiving weapon at the tight end position to help second-year quarterback Bryce Young. Sanders could win a starting spot during his rookie season and emerge as a solid receiving contributor for Carolina. While Sanders might be disappointed he didn’t go higher, he landed in a great opportunity to get established with a long pro career.


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