Sophomore Spotlight: Zebrie Sanders

Zebrie Sanders never got a chance to see the field in his rookie season due to hip surgery. (Photo: USA Today Sports Images)

BBD Staff Writer: Ryan Talbot

The last installment of Buffalo Bills Draft’s six-part Sophomore Spotlight series focuses on Zebrie Sanders, Buffalo’s fifth-round selection.

Since Sanders did not play in his rookie season, this entry is shorter than the others. After reading Sanders’ Sophomore Spotlight, be sure to check out the bottom of the page to find out how you could win an autographed card of each player in the series!

Zebrie Sanders

Selected Round 5, Pick 144 from Florida State

Sanders was the last Bills draft selection to make the roster in 2012.

Sanders received a pre-draft rating of 82.7 from — that put Sanders on the high end of’s “Eventual Starter” scale, and graded as a second-round value. Thus, Sanders provided great value to the Bills as a fifth-round selection.

During his senior season at Florida State, Sanders protected the blind side for new Bills quarterback, E.J. Manuel. Sanders was called for eight penalties for the season and only gave up only two sacks. He also notched 28 knockdown blocks. In the Champs Sports Bowl, Sanders was graded out at 94 percent by Florida State’s coaches, his highest grade of the season. (All statistics according to Florida State’s official website).

Sanders started 50 games in four seasons at Florida State, tied for second-most in school history, which included one span of 36 consecutive starts. Sanders earned first-team all-ACC honors in his senior season. In his last two seasons with the Seminoles, he was named to the all-ACC Academic Team. He finished his career with 139 knockdown blocks, most among all FSU offensive linemen.

NFL Network draft analyst Bucky Brooks noted Sanders’ versatility to play on both sides of the offensive line:

The Bills get a potential swing player with the addition of Sanders. He has experience playing on both sides of the line and that could make enable him to get a jersey each week as an active player.

Here are some positives and negatives from Brooks’ scouting report at NFL Draft Scout:


  • Footwork and technique are usually very good.
  • Has a balanced and agile pass protection set that handles all motions effectively.
  • Hand placement is excellent.
  • Foot speed and quickness are very good, but not elite.
  • Has the power and bend needed to anchor against the bull rush.
  • Has the ability to sink hips and generate real power with strong hands.
  • Consistently moves defenders back.
  • Grades out extremely well in every aspect of run blocking.
  • Outstanding blocking ability on the move.
  • Would grade highly as an OG prospect as well.
  • Agility is very good and power is excellent.
  • Puts a lot of defenders on the ground. Stays low and uses excellent technique.
  • First step is quick when pulling.
  • Is rarely beaten off the snap by pass rushers.
  • Consistently makes quality second level blocks.
  • About the highest possible grade here (intangibles).
  • Smart, durable, healthy, experienced, and high character.


  •  The one concern is handling the super quick edge rusher.

I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a scouting report that was so one-sided. It ends by comparing Sanders to Trent Williams, the No. 4 overall pick of the 2010 draft.

Sanders was projected by many as a third-round pick, but a poor Senior Bowl may have caused his drop to Round 5.

At training camp, Sanders played very inconsistently. One reason for his inconsistent play was a calcium growth on his right hip which tore through his labrum. On August 31st, the Bills placed Sanders on the injured reserve. Things got even worse for Sanders from there as he told

“I was in the middle of my rehab for the right side,” Sanders told “I woke up in the morning and literally I couldn’t get out of bed. I had just started walking again slowly. I still had a little pain in my right side, but I could walk. I remember getting up and I just had a real sharp pain on my left side. It felt like the same pain I had on the right side. So I freaked out and called our trainers and they talked to the surgeon who had done my hip surgery on the right side in August.”

Sanders tore the labrum in his left hip, and  had two hip operations in a span of two months as a result.

Sanders was hoping to be medically cleared this month, but has not yet participated in OTAs. However, Sanders is optimistic about 2013:

“I’m taking everything as a clean slate,” Sanders told “I’ll get a chance to get out there and prove myself. I’ll make a point to myself, the coaches and my teammates that I’m good enough to play at this level. I’m excited about it.”



Sanders had no stats in 2013, so unfortunately there will be no stat portion to his Sophomore Spotlight, regular or advanced.


2013 Stats (Prediction)

Games Played: 13

Games Started: 12

Penalties: 6

Sacks Allowed: 3

Quarterback Hits Allowed: 8

Quarterback Hurries Allowed: 12

Sanders’ season is by far the hardest to predict. Coming off of two hip operations, Sanders is not guaranteed a roster spot, let alone a starting spot. That said, I believe that Sanders has an opportunity to fill in Andy Levitre’s left guard role. Currently, Buffalo has Sam Young, Colin Brown and Chris Scott competing for the role. On the third day of Buffalo’s OTAs, undrafted free agent Zach Chibane ran with the second team as their left guard.

While there are plenty of options at the position, none have the talent of Zebrie Sanders. If Sanders can stay healthy, I think he has a great chance to contribute and even start for the Bills in 2013.


Sophomore Spotlight Autograph Giveaway

As mentioned on Twitter, we here at Buffalo Bills Draft are in the giving mood. Now that the series is complete, it’s time to give you an opportunity to win up to six autographed cards!

It’s actually quite simple. To win, you must be following us on Twitter or “Like” us on Facebook. Next, tweet @BillsDraft or post in the Facebook thread for this post, between now and August 1st, with your predictions on each of the Bills’ six sophomore players still on the roster. There will be a main prediction and tiebreaker for each player. The tiebreaker will be the second prediction listed for each player. Closest prediction for each player wins that player’s autographed rookie card.

Stephon Gilmore: Interception Total and Total Tackles

Cordy Glenn: Total Pressures Given Up (Hits, Hurries and Sacks) and Penalties Against

T.J. Graham: Total Receiving Yards and Receptions

Nigel Bradham: Total Tackles and Turnovers Caused (INTs and FF)

Ron Brooks: Interception Total and Total Tackles

Zebrie Sanders: Total Pressures Given Up and Penalties Against

At the end of the season we’ll revisit the predictions and give away the autographs!

Good luck to everyone that participates.

Before submitting your predictions, check out Ryan’s analysis and predictions of the other five players!

Previous Sophomore Spotlights:

Stephon Gilmore, CB

Cordy Glenn, LT

T.J. Graham, WR

Nigel Bradham, LB

Ron Brooks, CB

Tags: 2012 NFL Draft, Autograph Giveaway, Buffalo Bills, Sophomore Spotlight, Zebrie Sanders

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