Zach Charbonnet - RB - UCLA
Zach Charbonnet had an up-and-down start to his collegiate career, but after he transferred to UCLA for his final two seasons, he excelled. With back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons and 1,600+ total scrimmage yards as a senior to finish his collegiate career, he’s made a name for himself. Compounded on his offseason rise, he seems like a lock for Day 2 draft capital in the NFL Draft.
Height: 6′ 0″
Weight: 214 lbs
40-yard dash: 4.53s
3-cone drill: DNP
20-yard shuttle: DNP
Vertical Jump: 37″
Broad Jump: 10-2
Bench Press: DNP
*age is at the start of player’s rookie year
Charbonnet enrolled at the University of Michigan as a 4-star running back and was immediately productive for the team. Over the span of 13 games, he outpaced the rest of the running back room, including current NFL running back, Hassan Haskins. 2020 was a down season as Michigan only played 6 games and Charbonnet himself only played in 5 games and struggled with injuries. He failed to reach 200 total yards from scrimmage as he shared duties with Black Corum, Hassan Haskins, and rushing quarterback, Joe Milton.
Following the COVID year, Charbonnet decided to transfer back to his home near UCLA where he was immediately the focal point of the Bruins’ offense. He dominated on the ground with 1,137 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns and put on display his ability as a receiver with 24 receptions and 197 yards. As a senior, he took his game to another level in both facets with 1,680 total yards and 14 touchdowns, once again being effective through the air with 37 receptions and 321 receiving yards. He earned First-team All-American and First-team All-Pac-12 honors before declaring for the NFL Draft.
Zach Charbonnet has a great mix of power and elusiveness. He possesses prototypical size at 6’0” and 214 lbs and showed a solid 40-yard dash at 4.53s and a 1.54s 10-yard split (.02 away from Bijan and Jahmyr) at the combine. Those testing marks show on tape as he showed an explosive burst and great vision to match. He identifies running lanes, commits to those lanes, and explodes through the defense. His footwork is equally impressive as he has good change of direction and shows very little wasted movement as he navigates through defenders. And when a defender does get to him, he won’t shy away from contact and will consistently run through arm tackles and display good contact balance.
An underrated part of his game is his receiving abilities. He showed soft hands in the open field and even showed yards after the catch ability. In the open field, after the catch, he utilizes the same traits that make him a great running back to create plus yardage. Charbonnet is an all-around good running back with few holes in his game.
On third downs and pass protection situations, Charbonnet looked solid, but had few reps on tape to judge off of. Additionally, as a receiver, there were a few concentration drops on his tape that could be cleaned up. As a receiver, he was used mostly in check downs or around the line of scrimmage. Rarely running routes more nuanced than generic running back routes. Once he breaks free from the defense, he isn’t a burner although still very capable of creating explosive plays.
While he showed good contact balance and physicality, he was a questionable short-yardage back and tended to struggle to push the pile. While he showed to be an all-around back, there isn’t an elite trait that Charbonnet can really hang his hat on. That being said, he is more than just good or average at those many traits, making him truly a potential workhorse at the next level.
Pre Draft Analysis
Expected Draft Capital- Round 2
Charbonnet has been a big riser since the start of the 2022 season and especially so throughout this off-season. He’s one of the few running backs in this class that was once thought to be loaded with workhorses, to actually provide that workhorse size and skillset. He’s a top-end runner and provides plus value as a receiver, despite not necessarily possessing elite receiving abilities for a running back. All of that makes him look like a lock for Day 2, and most likely a Round 2 pick – potentially challenging for the second running back taken in this draft.
The Saints are building a team that is looking to compete right out of the gates with newcomer Derek Carr. With Kamara’s playing status up in the air and also his playing level looking to be on the decline, Charbonnet would be a great compliment to Kamara or even the potential bell cow in this offense. The Philadelphia Eagles would be a perfect landing spot and a perfect team that has the luxury of taking a running back early in the NFL Draft. Gainwell is considered a situational player by the Eagles and newcomer Rashaad Penny is on a prove-it deal that does not guarantee him a roster spot.
Post Draft Analysis
Seattle Seahawks- Round 2, Pick 21
Everyone was a bit confused by the offensive selections by the Seattle Seahawks. They selected Jaxon Smith-Njigba in the first round with both DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett under contract long-term. And then they bring in Zach Charbonnet right after Kenneth Walker was one of two rookie running backs to eclipse 1,000 rushing yards. Both Walker and Charbonnet profile as potential three-down backs that can do it all, but now analysts are scrambling to see how these two fit together in this offense. Will the Seahawks remain run-heavy? Or will they turn pass happy as they just brought in JSN to be another weapon for Geno? Regardless, the Seahawks have a great problem with all these weapons to support their quarterback Geno Smith.
Charbonnet and Walker are clearly going to be splitting this backfield in a historically run-heavy offense. Both Charbonnet and Walker have received 2nd round draft capital in back-to-back years. Both are great runners, but Charbonnet has a bit of a leg up as a receiver out of the backfield. Both can be viable, but it definitely limits their ceiling as they coexist in this offense. But the biggest unknown is if the Seahawks stay run heavy as the selection of Smith-Njigba signals the team potentially moving away from those running tendencies. It could also be argued that the team is looking ahead as Tyler Lockett enters his age 30 season despite his contract not expiring until after the 2025 season.
For Redraft, Charbonnet could be a decent late-round flier as the entire offensive situation is really up in the air. And managers can take advantage of the unknown for a discount, but it’s a risky play, and is much safer to wait a year and see how this offense plays out. In dynasty, Charbonnet was widely considered the locked-in RB3, but the landing spot makes the landscape at running back in this class very murky. The skillset is still there and many preach talent over situation. That being said, he’s a risky selection at the top of the second round in Superflex rookie drafts as we might be getting a long-term committee of two fantasy RB2s in Seattle.
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Image Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea – USA TODAY Sports