School: Michigan (2019-2020), UCLA (2021-2022)
The Good: Zach Charbonnet has the makings of a bell cow running back in the NFL, and not just because he’s 6’1”, 220lbs. Charbonnet is a downhill runner who hits the proper holes blocked in front of him at a nearly perfect rate. His vision is remarkably impressive, and that combined with his decisiveness leads to more big runs than you’d expect from a RB of Charbonnet’s profile. Charbonnet isn’t exactly a bruiser in the mold of Derrick Henry, but he is money in short yardage situations and can still wear out a defense over the course of a game. In the open field, Charbonnet displays excellent balance – both natural and upon contact – and his athleticism is underrated for his size. On zone runs, Charbonnet’s patience is on full display when he runs in unison with his blockers at the second level of a defense. He also might be the best pass protecting RB in this class; no blitzer is getting through him.
The Bad: My listed pros for Charbonnet far surpass the cons, but the main thing working against him is a key one: Charbonnet is not fast. If he runs a 4.55 40 at the Combine, he’ll probably be content with that. That isn’t a killer by any means; I’d actually contend that raw speed means less for RBs than it once did. Still, it reduces margin for error in the NFL. Like I wrote in the above section, Charbonnet is a good athlete but he definitely doesn’t move as well laterally as he does going north/south. He’s also somewhat clunky as a receiver. His hands aren’t bad and I thought he improved from his junior to senior year, but he’ll always be more of a pure runner than a dual threat.
The Bottom Line: Charbonnet is an exciting prospect because he’s that good of a runner. When a RB hits the Draft who’s as physical, naturally gifted AND smart as Charbonnet, he usually pans out at the next level. He just gets the ins and outs of playing running back beyond the required athleticism to do it. It’s worth noting that Charbonnet excelled as a senior in an offense run by Chip Kelly with a great offensive line in front of him but…1) Charbonnet would have been a fairly high pick had he declared last year… 2) he did improve from his junior to senior year like you’d expect… 3) he averaged at least 5.0 yards per carry in all 10 games last season. Regardless of your surroundings, that doesn’t happen unless you know what you’re doing carrying the rock. I don’t know if he’ll keep up that trend in the NFL, but Charbonnet is a Day 1 starter as a rookie and has a high floor to go along with a high ceiling.
Grade: Late First Round / Early Second Round
Pro Comp: Arian Foster
- LSU 2021
- Washington 2021
- Bowling Green 2022
- Washington 2022
- Utah 2022
- Oregon 2022
- USC 2022