Overlooked Carolina Panthers rookie poised to thrive under Dave Canales

This would help the Carolina Panthers significantly.
Dave Canales
Dave Canales / Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Dan Morgan needs his first draft class as general manager to shine. The Carolina Panthers didn't accumulate a good record of finding gems from the college ranks under the previous regime. This has to change if the organization wants to drag itself out of the abyss and back among the postseason challengers.

Morgan was happy with how things unfolded throughout the draft. He spent his first two big investments on offense to help second-year quarterback Bryce Young. This is in keeping with the offseason ethos to give their prized possession a fighting chance of righting some wrongs in 2024.

After selecting linebacker Trevin Wallace in the third round, Morgan returned to his offensive focus to start Day 3. Promising tight end Ja'Tavion Sanders somehow fell into their laps at No. 101 overall, which comes with more intrigue than most. Especially considering the Panthers have a dire need for improved production from this position group - something they haven't had since Greg Olsen departed for the Seattle Seahawks in 2020.

Sanders could be an instant impact player in the passing game. Those in power are confident Tommy Tremble can take advantage of his opportunity as Carolina's top option. But that didn't stop them from taking Sanders - an outstanding insurance policy with long-term upside.

Ja'Tavion Sanders tipped to produce under Carolina Panthers head coach Dave Canales

This was a topic discussed in greater detail by Alex Kay from The Bleacher Report. The analyst named Sanders among his deep fantasy football sleepers in 2024. He even proclaimed the former Texas star could enjoy similar success to Sam LaPorta, who thrived with the Detroit Lions during a phenomenal rookie year.

"Ja'Tavion Sanders could follow Sam LaPorta to become the next great NFL tight end to have a stellar rookie campaign. While the Carolina Panthers didn't draft until the start of Day 3, the Texas product finds himself in an ideal spot to showcase his talents immediately. With [Tommy] Tremble clearly not the answer, Sanders could usurp the starting role and work as a much-needed safety blanket for the young signal-caller as he seeks to turn his career around. Managers could do far worse than taking a flier on Sanders given his ADP of 215. He's one of the few tight ends in that range (if not the only one) who has the upside to become a weekly fantasy starter."

Alex Kay, The Bleacher Report

This only adds to the optimism surrounding Sanders. He doesn't offer much as an in-line blocker, but that's not why the Panthers brought him into the fold. They are looking to capitalize on his pass-catching prowess and ability to be deployed almost anywhere across the line of scrimmage. That's how he'll make his money next season.

The Panthers have two tight ends - Tremble and Ian Thomas - to fill blocking responsibilities. This allows Sanders to focus on being an efficient security blanket for Young. His athletic intangibles suggest it's something he can accomplish much sooner than anticipated.

Couple this with Canales' intent to make his offense more tight-end friendly, it's not hard to see why Sanders is being touted as a potential fantasy football sleeper. He'll be a surprise most won't see coming. He'll probably be sitting on waivers for anyone in 10-team leagues. Carolina's fanbase will be watching his progress closely to potentially get ahead of the game.

Sanders must earn prominent targets throughout Carolina's training camp and whatever reps come his way during preseason contests. This should provide enough confidence in his potential to take off in Year 1 of his professional career.

Xavier Legette and Jonathon Brooks took up the majority of headlines, but don't be shocked if Sanders quickly emerges as an integral part of the Panthers' plans.