UCLA Bruins running back Zach Charbonnet is your prototypical hard-nosed rusher who won’t go down on first contact. He’s far from the quickest or shiftiest back in the 2023 NFL Draft class, but he’s certainly one of the biggest.
He may not be valued as one of the very best running back prospects in the talent pool, but those looking for a sleeper solution to become an instant contributor at the next level could be enticed by Charbonnet once the top two or three backs are off the draft board.
Related: 2023 NFL Draft order, picks by team
Zach Charbonnet measurements
- Zach Charbonnet height: 6-foot
- Zach Charbonnet weight: 214 pounds
- Zach Charbonnet 40 time: 4.53 seconds
Let’s dive into Sportsnaut’s Zach Charbonnet draft profile.
Zach Charbonnet stats and background
Coming out of Oaks Christian high school in California, Charbonnet was viewed as a top running back prospect and a four-star recruit by 247sports.com. He didn’t do anything to diminish his value in college, yet being forced to take a backseat in his sophomore year likely didn’t help his chances to turn pro early.
Now Charbonnet is set to join the NFL, having already played for two different teams in college after starting his career with the Michigan Wolverines before transferring to UCLA after two years.
Charbonnet had two consecutive seasons topping 1,000 yards once he landed with the Bruins, and this came after breaking out for 726 yards with the Wolverines as a freshman in 2019.
|Zach Charbonnet stats||Attempts||Rush yards||TDs||Rec yards|
Charbonnet’s skill set is pretty clear. Hand him the ball, expect him to run north/south, and punish defenders in his way. Yet, while he didn’t get many opportunities to make a difference catching passes out of the backfield, Charbonnet has at least proven to have reliable hands, having dropped two passes on 44 targets last season. If he can get the ball with just one or two defenders in his path, he could pick up large chunks of yards.
While Charbonnet’s energy is likely better served as a downhill rusher, he appears to at least have the skillset to be a three-down back based on his college tape.
Statistics courtesy of College Football Reference, ESPN, and Pro Football Focus
Zach Charbonnet scouting report
Based on his college work, there is very little not to like about Charbonnet’s game. He’s a physical rusher who will fight through traffic, reaching for every last inch. As you can see, Charbonnet isn’t just a straight-line runner. He can also make a few east/west shifts that keep defenders guessing whether he’s about to plant his foot into the ground directly into their chest or simply dance around them.
Facing the task of tackling Charbonnet one-on-one won’t be an easy feat for any linebacker and certainly won’t be a welcome challenge for any defensive back either if he can reach the final level of the defense. Charbonnet is a problem in open space and has just enough speed to blow past a defender and take it to the house.
Charbonnet had a unique opportunity to address any concerns during a rainy Pro Day at UCLA for teams hoping to better see his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield.
Related: NFL teams view Texas running back Bijan Robinson as ‘top-5’ player in 2023 NFL Draft
- Zach Charbonnet draft grade: 77/100
- Zach Charbonnet draft projection: Day 2 pick
Charbonnet’s lack of elite speed may prevent him from being a first-round pick or even diminish his ability to enter the NFL as a team’s top option, but his all-around game should make several teams intrigued by what he can offer.
Zach Charbonnet NFL projection
Charbonnet is likely looking at joining a shared backfield next season. Teams aren’t going to hand him a starting role. Yet, with how unpredictable injuries are, Charbonnet could be one play away from being thrust into a starting role.
He may very well have 1,000-yard potential, and there’s not much doubt the sturdy-framed tailback will break down with a large workload, but he’ll have to earn his way into the top rushing role in the NFL.
Coaches will love his never die easy mentality, lowering his shoulder whether he’s at the goal line or simply trying to inch closer to the first down while keeping his legs churning, but until we can actually see him against other NFL defenders, it’s tough to project just how high Charbonnet’s ceiling reaches.
He could become a top-ten back at the next level, but he could just as easily be the next rusher who’s too physically strong for college players but not quite quick enough to dominate at the next level. We have a feeling he’ll do just fine, thanks to being more than just a power rusher.
Teams looking to add Charbonnet to their roster won’t be looking at him in the first round. He may become an option somewhere in the mid-to-late second but is certainly a strong bet to be selected at some point on the second day of the draft.
Some ideal NFL fits for Zach Charbonnet:
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers – 50th pick
- Miami Dolphins – 51st pick
- Chicago Bears – 53rd pick
- Los Angeles Chargers – 54th pick
- Jacksonville Jaguars – 56th pick
- Dallas Cowboys – 58th pick
- Buffalo Bills – 59th pick
- Cincinnati Bengals – 60th pick
Whoever gets lucky enough to select Charbonnet will be getting a player who has the potential to develop into a starter. It may not be in the first season, but those looking for a back to fill at least a short-yardage goal-line role could do a lot worse than the bruising rusher.
Related: 2023 NFL power rankings