Texas TE Ja'Tavion Sanders upgrades Panthers' passing game

Texas is up to six players selected in the 2024 NFL Draft with tight end Ja'Tavion Sanders going in the fourth round to the Carolina Panthers.
Ja'Tavion Sanders, Texas football
Ja'Tavion Sanders, Texas football / Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Texas football junior tight end Ja'Tavion Sanders started off the festivities on Day 3 of the 2024 NFL Draft. The Carolina Panthers selected Sanders with the 101st overall pick (and the first pick in the fourth round) of the 2024 draft.

Texas football TE Ja'Tavion Sanders joins Jonathon Brooks with the Panthers in the 2024 NFL Draft

Sanders joins junior running back Jonathon Brooks as the newest Panthers picked from Texas in the 2024 draft. The Panthers selected Brooks with the 46th overall pick in the second round of the draft on Day 2.

Brooks and Sanders will be teaming up with a fellow Longhorn teammate in Carolina in 2024, cornerback D'Shawn Jamison.

Texas and head coach Steve Sarkisian continue to see the fruits of their labor with talent acquisition and player development paying dividends in the 2024 draft. Sanders is the sixth Texas Ex selected in the 2024 draft, which is already a program-high in the NFL Draft since 2010.

The last time the Longhorns had seven players drafted in a single year was in 2007.

Sanders is the first Texas tight end selected in the NFL Draft since Geoff Swaim in 2015. He is also the first Texas tight end drafted in the first four rounds since Jermichael Finley was selected in the third round by the Green Bay Packers in 2008.

Carolina is getting yet another weapon at the skill positions to build this offense around former Alabama Crimson Tide star quarterback Bryce Young. The Panthers have also drafted Brooks and former South Carolina Gamecocks standout wide receiver Xavier Legette at the skill positions.

Sanders brings something that the Panthers offense was sorely lacking last season: a true and reliable receiving threat at the tight end position. The Panthers top receiving tight end from 2023, fourth-year pro Tommy Tremble, has never registered over 200 receiving yards in a single season.

The 6-foot-4 and 245-pound Sanders is the top receiving tight end in Texas program history. He registered 99 catches for 1,295 receiving yards (13.1 yards per catch) and seven touchdown catches over three years at Texas.

Sanders emerged as one of the most reliable and productive receiving tight ends in the Power Five in the last couple of years. He registered nearly triple-digit catches for over 1,200 receiving yards with only four drops since 2022.

Last season, Sanders was the only tight end in the Power Five to register over 600 receiving yards without dropping a single pass (per PFF).

Sanders is a big-time threat after the catch and a first down machine. He ranked second among P5 tight ends in first down percentage last season, utilizing his bigger frame and top-notch speed for a tight end of his size and stature to pick up yards in chunks after the catch.

Development at the skill positions elite under Sarkisian

Four of the six Longhorns players selected in the 2024 draft play at the skill positions. Texas is the first school to have a running back, wide receiver, and tight end selected in the first four rounds of the 2024 draft.

The Kansas City Chiefs traded up to select the 40-yard dash king, wide receiver Xavier Worthy, with the 28th pick in the first round. The run of Texas Exes selected in the early rounds of the draft continued on Day 2, with Brooks and wide receiver Adonai Mitchell both hearing their names called close to each other in Round 2.

The Indianapolis Colts got an absolute steal, with Mitchell falling all the way to the 52nd overall pick in the second round.

Texas's other two players selected in the 2024 draft are defensive tackles Byron Murphy II (16th overall to the Seattle Seahawks) and T'Vondre Sweat (38th overall to the Tennessee Titans). The Longhorns were also one of the few schools to have two defensive tackles selected in the first two rounds of the 2024 draft.

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