Carolina Panthers Rookie TE Reveals Bold Goal For Himself

Ja'Tavion Sanders, Philadelphia Eagles
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Carolina Panthers selected University of Texas tight end Ja’Tavion Sanders in the fourth round of the NFL Draft late last month, and he is already setting some pretty lofty goals for himself.

Sanders participated in the Panthers’ rookie minicamp this weekend, and while speaking to reporters, he revealed who he is trying to emulate.

“I’m just trying to be the next Greg Olsen,” Sanders said, via Kassidy Hill of the Panthers’ official team website. “I’m trying to be the new face of the offense for sure.”

Sanders is viewed by many as a sleeper heading into his rookie campaign after putting together a couple of impressive seasons at Texas in 2022 and 2023.

The 21-year-old arrived at Texas in 2021, but did not begin getting legitimate playing time until the following year. That season, he caught 54 passes for 613 yards and five touchdowns. Then, in 2023, he hauled in 45 receptions for 682 yards and a couple of scores.

Considering Carolina absolutely needs some weapons in the aerial attack for second-year quarterback Bryce Young, Sanders may very well end up getting the ball a lot in 2024, and head coach Dave Canales appreciates his versatility.

“He’s a guy, you can move around a little bit more, maybe play him in the slot a little bit,” Canales said of Sanders.

But can Sanders really be the next Olsen?

Olsen was originally selected by the Chicago Bears in the first round of the 2007 NFL Draft. He spent the first four years of his career with the Bears before being traded to the Panthers in July 2011.

The Paterson, N.J. native was solid in Chicago, but he really broke out once he arrived in Carolina.

He went on to spend the next nine years with the Panthers, making three straight trips to the Pro Bowl between 2014 and 2016. He logged three consecutive 1,000-yard campaigns during that span, topping out at 1,104 yards in 2015.

Olsen then ended his career with the Seattle Seahawks in 2020, but by that point, injuries had completely sapped him of his former glory.

If Sanders can buckle down and become even close to the player that Olsen was, Carolina will safely be able to say it landed one of the biggest steals of the 2024 NFL Draft.

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