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Don't Sleep On Rookie Tight End Ja'Tavion Sanders In Your 2024 Fantasy Football Leagues

Ja'Tavion Sanders - Fantasy Football Rankings, College FB, TE, NFL Draft Sleepers

For the longest time, the tight end position has consisted of Travis Kelce and, well... everybody else. Sure, Mark Andrews and George Kittle have had some good, even great, seasons, but this has largely been Kelce's world, and all the other tight ends were just living in it. We've had our big three during the past five years, but the drop-off after this trio was fast, hard, and extreme. That started to change last season with the NFL and fantasy managers experiencing a bit of a youth movement at the position.

Guys like Sam LaPorta, Trey McBride, Evan Engram, David Njoku, and T.J. Hockenson began to blossom and in some cases, fully break out. There is reason for optimism from other young tight ends such as Kyle Pitts, Michael Mayer, Jake Ferguson, and Dalton Kincaid. With Kelce beginning to slowly fall from his perch, the elitism of the position may not be as high as it was in past years. After all, there really is no replacement for Kelce, but it's certainly deeper than ever.

The depth of the tight end position will only improve with elite tight end prospect Brock Bowers entering the league. He could also provide that ceiling that Kelce previously provided. However, due to Bowers' insane prospect profile, fantasy managers could be sleeping on another great tight end prospect, Ja'Tavion Sanders. If you want to take advantage of our great premium tools, please use promo code "BOOM" to receive a 10% discount.  

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Making the Case for Ja'Tavion Sanders

Without even digging into Ja'Tavion Sanders’ numbers too much, he should be someone fantasy managers are interested in having on their teams for 2024. We’ve all heard the narratives around rookie tight ends, but that took a big hit last year, and it will take another one this year with Brock Bowers and Sanders.

Sanders is a former five-star recruit. He has always been an exceptional football player and is regarded as one of the best tight ends among his same-aged peers. That’s a good thing! We love that strong football pedigree. He signed to play in a Power 5 Conference at Texas.

After three years in college, Sanders has declared for the NFL Draft, where he’s expected to be drafted in the second round. Without one look at the numbers, every fantasy football manager should be interested. He’s always been great at football. He was an elite-level recruit, went to a Power 5 conference, early declared, and has excellent draft capital. Your interest level should be piqued, but let’s take it further.

In his second season, Sanders finished with 72 targets and 54 receptions. He had the sixth-most targets and sixth-most receptions among tight ends in 2022. Sanders had an impressive 17.8% target share and finished as Texas’ second-leading receiver in targets, receptions, and touchdowns to only Xavier Worthy, another second-round draft prospect. This past year, Sanders had 67 targets and 45 receptions. His target share dipped to 14.3% with the addition of Adonai Mitchell.

Like Sanders and Worthy, Mitchell will likely hear his name during the second round. Sanders finished with the sixth-most targets and ninth-most receptions among tight ends in 2023. From the graph below, you can see where Sanders ranks among some of the best recent tight end prospects in Experience Adjusted Reception. This graph is courtesy of Campus2Canton.

As you can see, Sanders' second season ranked higher than all of the best from recent tight end prospects except Michael Mayer. Even his third season is in line with the average of those who ended up having a top-12 fantasy football season.

Sanders displayed the ability to earn targets at the tight end position. He also displayed the ability to become a regular part of his team's aerial attack. That's big time for his future fantasy success. The biggest factor for tight ends to gain fantasy relevance is earning targets and Sanders has exhibited that trait at a young age. Not only that, but Sanders has also been very productive and efficient with the volume he earns. As a sophomore, Sanders finished with 613 receiving yards, which was the sixth most in the country for tight ends.

This past season, Sanders finished with 682 yards, finishing ninth in the country. Below is another graph, courtesy of Campus2Canton, detailing where Sanders ranks in Experience Adjusted Receiving Yards vs. the average of tight ends who have had at least one top-12 fantasy season. You can see that Sanders is above that line in both his second and third seasons. He also compares favorably to some of the best fantasy tight ends in the NFL.

In 2022, Sanders had 19.7% of Texas' passing yards and averaged 1.52 yards per team pass attempt. Both numbers are excellent. The fact that he could do this as a sophomore in his first season with regular playing time is impressive. This past season, Sanders had 17.0% of his team's passing yards and averaged 1.45 yards per team pass attempt.

Again, adding another second-round pass-catcher negatively affected Sanders slightly, but he continued to be a big part of the team's passing offense. In the graph below, you can see where Sanders ranks in Experience Adjusted Receiving Yards per Team Pass Attempt. Once again, Sanders finds himself above the average and near some of the best fantasy football tight ends.

Out of 116 tight ends with at least 25 targets in the 2022 season, Sanders finished 18th with a PFF receiving grade of 76.1. He also finished 20th in yards per route run with an average of 1.76 and averaged 5.3 yards after the catch per reception, which was 57th.

This past season, out of 106 tight ends with at least 25 targets, Sanders finished 13th with a PFF receiving grade of 79.0. He also finished 17th in yards per route run with an average of 1.86. Sanders was 13th in yards after the catch per reception at 7.7 and was 13th in yards per reception at 15.2. He was once again one of the very best tight ends in the country. That shows up in the graph below, which depicts the Experience Adjusted Weighted Dominator Rating.

Based on his collegiate production, Sanders has exactly what fantasy managers should look for in a rookie tight end. He's posted elite production for the past two seasons and has now declared early for the NFL Draft, a great indicator of future success. While the NFL Combine isn't always predictive for other positions, such as receiver, it is incredibly important for the tight end position.

Sanders did not participate in all of the combine activities, but in the ones he did do, he performed well enough to score an unofficial 8.06 on the RAS. With how important athleticism is at the tight end position, fantasy managers hope their favorite tight end prospect scores an eight or higher. Sanders was able to accomplish this.

Looking forward to 2024, it's hard to determine where he might be ranked among tight ends because his landing spot in the NFL will be crucial. However, in dynasty leagues, he should be viewed as having the upside, talent, and athleticism to post a top-12 finish at the tight end position. He'll likely be ranked for the 2024 fantasy football season between TE15-TE22.

In the right situation, Sanders can outplay that hypothetical ranking. He's someone fantasy managers need to be aware of for redraft leagues. In dynasty leagues, he needs to be on radars everywhere.

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