Zach Charbonnet Draft Profile
Scouting running backs are like no other position; usually the more reps the better, but for running backs it is almost the opposite. Obviously to be considered a draftable player, the running back needs reps, but NFL teams don’t want too much tread on a players’ tires. UCLA running back, Zach Charbonnet has had a lot of usage since he was in high school. In 2018, he came out of Thousand Oaks high school as a top five player at his position nationally, and committed to Michigan. As a true freshman at the University of Michigan, he carried the ball 156 times and looked like he was going to take the BIG10 by storm in his sophomore year. Instead, he took a step back and ending up transferring back to his hometown team, the UCLA Bruins. At UCLA, he was featured heavily as the lead-back in Chip Kelly’s offense. At 6’1 220 lbs., Charbonnet is a bigger back who is going to get an opportunity to show what he has at the next level.
When looking at Zach Charbonnet’s body type, he is exactly what NFL teams want in a power-back. He has a large frame with thick legs and a strong lower half. Behind the line of scrimmage, Charbonnet demonstrates patience and can turn on his speed. He has a good balance between patience and short-area burst that allows him to run between the tackles. While I don’t think he has fully developed the skill for it, Charbonnet has what it takes to be really good in pass-protection. Despite Charbonnet’s wider build, he knows how to move his shoulders and get skinny when running through skinny holes. I personally don’t think UCLA was the right scheme fit for what Charbonnet is capable of. Kelly used him more as an east-west runner, as opposed to a downhill-power scheme. When QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson was under center handing the ball off, I thought Charbonnet was at his best. If Charbonnet can get with a downhill gap-scheme run game, I foresee him having his best chance to succeed in the NFL.
While Zach Charbonnet has shown in that he is capable of being a physical runner, I don’t believe that is his mentality. I believe he is strong, but not powerful. He doesn’t consistently inflict violence and take advantage of his one-on-one’s. Defensive backs should be scared to tackle a 220 lb. running back in open space, but there is no need to capitulate because Charbonnet’s first instinct is to make someone miss instead of run them over. He has the size and overall strength to wreak havoc downhill, but the anger needs to be coached into him. He should make defensive backs regret even attempting to tackle him in space. For his size, most teams would want to use him as a goal-line back, but I don’t know if he has the dog in him to be a short-yardage back. The reason I don’t believe Charbonnet can be successful in a zone running system is because of his inability to change directions. Teams want guys who can stop on a dime and reverse field to find a hole; Charbonnet has a slow transition time in and out of breaks. While Charbonnet has above average burst, he lacks the break-away speeded to be a home run hitter. He doesn’t have long speed nor does he have the quickness to make an NFL defender miss in the open field; that is why I have him graded so low.
Overall, I am not very high on Charbonnet; I believe his size and production at a power five school is good enough to get him drafted, he is going to need to go to a place with a fiery running backs coach. I have seen him flip the switch and run angry, but he constantly avoids turning it on. He is limited due to his inability to change directions and lack of long speed, so he needs to make up for it somehow. If he goes to a place like Detroit where he has Dan Campbell to fire him up every day or Carolina with Deuce Staley, I think he has a chance. With that being said, I think he needs to go to a perfect situation in order for him to be a goal-line back, which is why I struggle with giving him a grade above round five.
Play Strength + Toughness: 8.75/12
Long Speed + Lateral Speed: 7/10
Feet + Change of Direction: 6.5/10
Quickness + Open Field: 7.25/10
Burst + Acceleration: 7/8
Receiving Ability: 4.25/6
Athletic Ability: 3.75/5
Final Rating: 73
Pro Comparison: Kalen Ballage
Draft Projection: 3rd Round
Draft Grade: 6th Round
Team Fits: Bills, Lions, Panthers