Zack Charbonnet racked up 4,471 yards and 62 touchdowns at his California high school and was among the top-rated running backs as a senior. He had already signed with Michigan prior to his senior season when he had just posted 2,049 rushing yards and 23 during his junior season.
He needed knee surgery prior to his freshman season and missed practice time until late summer. Charbonnet was still the primary back that year while sharing with Hassan Haskins. He set the Michigan freshman record with 11 rushing touchdowns. In the COVID-shortened 2020 season, Michigan only played six games and Charbonnet was limited to only 19 carries while Haskins saw the bigger workload. That led Charbonnet to enter the transfer portal and end up in UCLA as a Junior.
Charbonnet became the workhorse back he should have always been, leading the Bruins for the next two seasons. He returned for his outstanding senior season when he rolled up 1,680 total yards and 14 touchdowns. Charbonnet was a First Team All-American and a semifinalist for the Doak Walker and Walter Camp awards. He ranked No. 15 in the nation in rushing yards despite missing two games.
Weight: 220 pounds
40 time: 4.53 seconds
He will be one of the first running backs drafted and in the Top-5 if not the Top-3. Charbonnet offers all the measurables and skill set that historically pointed at an NFL workhorse though current offensive systems are less likely to rely so heavily on an individual running back. He’ll still attract plenty of fantasy attention.
Table: Player NCAA stats (2019-22)
- Prototypical North -South power back, determined runner with no wasted motion
- Runs downhill – gains speed and velocity as he runs
- Only three fumbles on 641 college touches over four years
- Solid pass protection blocking
- Patient when following blocks
- Outstanding in short yardage, keeps his legs churning
- Strong lower body breaks tackles
- Smart player with high football intelligence
- Popular in the locker room, good character
- Maintains balance through contact
- Solid vision yields best path in traffic
- Not quick in initial cuts
- Average receiver that had some drops
- Fast but not elite speed
- Relies more on power than elusive moves
Charbonnet is a mature, four-year running back that projects as a starter in the NFL. He’s a bit more of a throwback to the power rushing style of the past but offers receiving ability and solid pass-pro blocking so he can stay on the field all three downs. At the least, he’s a solid pick for a team looking for help on first and second downs, and can find a role in any NFL backfield.
He is a complete back but his skills will be tested in the faster and stronger NFL. The expectation is that he will be a Day 2 selection and more likely near the end of the second or start of the third round. That makes him available to any team who needs backfield help but don’t want to spend a first or high second-round pick to get the upgrade. That would make him a potential target for the Bills, Cowboys, Jaguars, and Rams.
Outside of Bijan Robinson, Charbonnet is the only other highly-rated rookie back that carries the size for a heavy-duty role in the NFL. The other early picks are faster but also fifteen pounds lighter or more. Depending on where he lands, Charbonnet could carve out a significant role as a rookie since he’s a power-runner first and offers receiving skills as a way to remain on the field.
Charbonnet has been compared to David Johnson, Adrian Peterson, Cedric Benson and Arian Foster. He’ll get the chance to become an immediate contributor and challenge to become the No. 1 running back for his team.