Zach Charbonnet Scouting Report

In our Scouting Reports, we will give you a quick debrief to get you the information you need to know. We’ll also take it a step further and provide an in-depth review showing off examples of what we like, and what we don’t. Included is a date from the initial scouting report, this is so new notes can be added as the year goes on. Those new notes will be dated as well. With that, welcome to the Zach Charbonnet scouting report!

If you’d like to see more, below are all the completed scouting reports for this season:

QBRBWRTE
Will LevisTank BigsbyJordan AddisonTBD
Spencer Rattler* (2024)Sean TuckerQuentin Johnston
Anthony RichardsonZach CharbonnetJaxon Smith-Njigba
Michael Penix Jr.* (2024)Blake Corum* (2024)Jalin Hyatt
Josh Downs

Zach Charbonnet has had some high-highs, and low-lows. 2019 was spent in Michigan, leading a timeshare with 4th round pick, and current Tennessee Titan, Hassan Haskins. 2020 saw Haskins take the reigns, leaving Charbonnet with only 19 carries all year. Transferring to UCLA brought new life, as Zach exploded out of the gate in 2021 and never slowed down. Let’s look at what Charbonnet brings to the table.

Date: 08.08.2022 | Update: 10.24.2022
Details
: Zach Charbonnet | RB | UCLA #24
DOB: 01.08.2001 | 22 years old
H/W: 6’0” | 214 lbs

NFL Combine results (updated 03.06.2023):
40-yd dash: 4.53s
10-yd split: 1.54s
Vertical jump: 37″
Broad jump: 10′ 2″

YearAttYdsAvgTDsRecYdsAvgTDsFum
20191497264.9118303.801
2020191246.516416.800
202120211375.613241978.200
202219513597.014373218.702

Projection

NFL Draft Projection (updated 03.06.2023):

2nd Round Pick – Charbonnet is a well rounded running back, showing good hands in the receiving game and good enough pass blocking. Couple that with his violent running style, which is complimented by natural power, burst, and balance; Charbonnet could be a gem of a running back. He’s shown he should be right in the mix with the elite top-end talent and depth of this class. He could be as high as an early 2nd round pick. The NFL Combine showed good, though not great athletic upside, though better than many expected. I think we’ll see him taken in the 2nd round, either the second or third back off the board.

Dynasty Rookie Draft Projection – 1QB (updated 03.06.2023):

Early to Mid 1st Round Pick – Charbonnet is an extremely talented back whose draft capital and landing spot could push him as high 1.02 or 1.03, or leave him as low as middle of the 1st. As it stands right now, top 4 feels about right.

Dynasty Rookie Draft Projection – Superflex/2QB (updated 03.06.2023):

Mid to Late 1st Round Pick – I expect two, up-to four quarterbacks get picked up before Charbonnet in SF/2QB, pushing him to a mid-late 1st. Here, too, could find a bump from an excellent landing spot.

Scouting Brief

Charbonnet’s college career thus far has been a tale of two schools: When Charbonnet started off in the 2019 season in Michigan, he was the 1a to Hassan Haskin’s 1b status. Here, he put together a very solid year including 11 touchdowns – the most by any Michigan freshman.

During the 2020 season, everything changed; suddenly Charbonnet’s usage was cut dramatically, only touching the ball 25 times during the entire (short) year, tied for third most by a RB on the Michigan roster. Haskins – an eventual 4th round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft – completely took the reins.

This certainly explains the transfer portal and the move to UCLA, where in 2021, Charbonnet took nearly twice the snaps as Brittain Brown (7th round pick in 2022). His aggressive running style put on a show for the college football world and briefly had his name in the Heisman race. He’ll get one more go at it this year, as he decided to go back to school.

Charbonnet isn’t the perfect running back specimen by any means. His athleticism is not elite; anything better than 4.55 would be a very good 40 yard dash time for him. His ability to move laterally is a bit limited as well, especially at speed…and he doesn’t show a whole lot of wiggle when he’s on the move.

Part of these limitations may be footwork related. There were a few times he’d take unnecessary steps before punching the throttle and bursting forward. While he was generally able to run through any trouble this caused in college, this could certainly use refinement before taking on next-level defenders.

Additionally, he is prone to getting tunnel vision. While he typically does well to read what’s directly in front of him – even keying on the second level defenders and reacting accordingly – his vision can narrow, missing running lanes open just one gap over.

Ironically, this issue gives us plenty of opportunities to see his positive traits as a runner, most notably his sheer strength. Charbonnet runs straight through tackle attempts giving very little thought to the intentions of defenders.

Whether the defender is a sub-180lb cornerback, or a 300+lb nose tackle, Charbonnet would create his own lane as a battering ram, abusing arm tackles, ankle tackles, and even head-up tackles – barely slowing a beat.

Working into traffic, Charbonnet gets his pads low and runs through them with momentum. When coupled with uncanny contact balance and quick reaction time, he has the ability to chug through traffic instead of working around it.

What’s more, he’s not just an asset on the ground. Charbonnet shows good hands in the passing game too, catching fastballs from Dorian Thompson-Robinson (DTR) at close range with regularity. He even looks pretty good when pass blocking, setting a wide base and getting low…he’s got to work on keeping his head and eyes up though.

All told, Charbonnet is a well rounded running back with room for refinement. His athletic limitations may keep him from entering the elite echelon of prospects, but if he can expand his vision and limit unnecessary steps, he has the potential to be an every down back at the next level.

Update: 10.24.2022

The more I watch of Charbonnet from the 2022 season, the more I really, really like his abilities. He’s comfortable attacking any lane available, he’s decisive and gets north/south, he anticipates runs well and shows patience when needed, he’s got incredible balance and strength along with a violent running style, and he’s even got nice soft hands as a receiver.

He’s a very, very good running back…unfortunately, one who is likely to bomb athletic testing at the NFL Combine. If he had even moderately better athletic upside, I could see him being the third running back drafted in this class chalk full of studs. As it is, he seems to be in that RB6-8 range.

I’m hopeful that he will profile similar to Brian Robinson Jr. athletically; 4.53s 40 yard dash with unremarkable burst and agility scores. Robinson was drafted in the 3rd round in 2022.

Update: 03.06.2023

Boy-howdy does that 4.53s 40-yard dash call feel prophetic now that the NFL Combine has come and gone. Charbonnet tested well for what was expected of him, and so now he should see a bump in his draft stock as others (Evans, Bigsby, Tucker) fall a bit.

Considering the well-rounded nature of his game, his ability to stay on the field every down, and his outstanding running ability, I think Charbonnet will be the second or third running back drafted this year.

Detailed Breakdown

What is most immediately noticeable when watching Zach Charbonnet is his propensity to drive through would-be tacklers as if they never existed. Take it from this poor soul; Charbonnet fractured three of his vertebrae during an 83-0 blowout in high school. Clearly, he runs with quite a bit of power.

That strength shows up nearly every time Charbonnet touches the ball. Whether he’s bursting through the arms of a nose tackle, or dragging a 265lb edge defender, he plays big. In our next play, we see him do both.

Here we see UCLA running a trap play. The center and right tackle are pulling down, trapping the linemen on the defenses right side, giving Charbonnet a great lane straight up the middle.

While shooting the A-gap, Charbonnet scrapes the back of his right guard, allowing Faatui Tuitele (nose tackle #99) to get an arm on him. At the same time, Sav’ell (Savvy) Smalls – former five star recruit and possible early NFL draft pick – catches him from behind, wrapping his leg and holding on.

This is where the raw power shows up. With Smalls holding onto his right leg, Charbonnet drags all 265lbs of Savvy an additional one or two yards, even after losing all momentum. It’s only a six yard run, but offers a great snippet of the strength Charbonnet brings to the table as a runner.

This next one is one of those “wow” runs that showcases an awesome highlight reel. Watching it happen against LSU is the icing on the cake. He dominated this game, putting up 152 yards on 12 touches; 11 rushes for 117 yards and a reception for 35 yards, and a rushing touchdown to boot.

Right away we see the backers flow too hard on this counter, they key on Charbonnet and his initial steps set it up nicely. Additionally, the offensive line gets enough push to wash away the backers, clearing a nice lane for the puller.

After getting through the line and bursting for good yardage, Charbonnet finds himself surrounded. He makes a very nice juke back behind his blocker, but gets his ankle wrapped on the way. Showing off his outstanding balance, he stumbles but quickly finds his footing.

Eli Ricks (DB #1) – an outstanding cornerback – goes low for the tackle but finds he’s in the dirt by himself. Charbonnet leapt over him, got horizontal, and slammed into Derek Stingley (DB #7) – 3rd overall draft pick in 2021 – before setting his feet and getting on the move again.

All-in-all, this is one of my absolute favorite runs by Charbonnet. He set up the counter nicely, burst through the lane with speed, showed a rare stop/start and cut ability, all alongside his trademark strength, outstanding balance, and phenomenal body control. All of this against multiple future (and now one current) NFL talent.

Charbonnet had a few nice runs against Hawai’i too, where he put up 130 yards on only seven touches, and where three of those touches went for touchdowns. While not the same defensive pedigree as LSU, we see the exact same traits in his runs here.

Here’s a nice pin and pull with the uncovered center scraping behind his left guard who blocks down, setting the lane for Charbonnet to run through. The center quickly makes his way to the second level and targets the safety.

Charbonnet initially angles his run directly at the tight end taking on the linebacker, but you can clearly see he wants to cut inside the block and follow his center. Unfortunately, one of his drawbacks shows up here, his change of direction ability at speed.

Since he’s unable to make that drastic of a cut at the speed he’s moving, he’s forced to redirect outside that block. That would be one of the possible areas of improvement over 2021, would be to work on his movement laterally.

With that said, he does take a nifty little juke to cut inside his next blocker, after which we see Charbonnet lower his pad level – and his shoulder – and deliver a punishing blow to the would-be tackler. He shrugs off the first guy, and on his very next step does it again to a second defender.

Losing all that momentum running freight train through the defense, he then turns on the jets to burst past a diving tackle and make his way to the endzone.

Another run showcasing his strength, balance, body control, pad level, and burst. Unfortunately, we also see he doesn’t have outstanding lateral movement ability while at speed either. However, when the run ends up looking like this, I doubt many people will be focusing on that missed cutback.

Those above videos really nicely showcase who Charbonnet is as a runner; he’s a loaded locomotive who can derail any defender on his tracks. In fact, in the three games I tracked, nine of his 38 runs all had these same traits marked and highlighted.

Instead of showing more of that, I want to sidestep into Charbonnet’s biggest issue that I saw. His vision.

I wouldn’t say he has poor vision, because he regularly does well to see the second level defenders, react accordingly, and typically makes good decisions. Rather, I think he shows narrow vision, or tunnel vision. He locks himself onto a lane without really looking for other possibilities.

On our next play, we see another great pin and pull; the center pulls behind his right guard to block the edge defender, allowing the right tackle to get to the second level and attack the linebacker. With this, the intended lane is the B-gap just off the right guard’s right hip.

Once the play begins, the 3 technique shoots the opposite B-gap so hard he opens a massive lane right up the gut. The linebacker lurks, but that’s a lot of grass to fill and he’s the only possible defender in that hole. Further, he’s got a lineman crashing down on him. The nose tackle is two-gapping and so isn’t flashing hard into either gap.

Charbonnet has a decision to make; take the gaping lane with one man to beat, or squeeze into the designed crease with a safety dropping in to fill. Charbonnet attacks the designed gap.

It’s not a bad decision, the design is perfect for the alignment, and the execution is good enough. However, I think a wider field of view could have seen the possibilities available through the A-gap, and caused a more creative running back to abandon the play design for the available opportunity.

Later in the same game, we see a 3rd and 2, UCLA is running inside zone. With only two yards to go for the first down, Charbonnet wants to bang this run just inside the double-team in the A-gap, get the first, and continue the series.

When given the option, Charbonnet locks in on the simplest and most direct path, travelling north/south with as little east/west travel as needed. While the desire to get north/south is great, the issue is that he locked onto it without reassessing as the play unfolded.

Off the snap, the nickle comes on the blitz and seals the edge, however, the sam linebacker sees the left tackle distracted by the blitz, and shoots the B-gap to disrupt the play. This does close down the B-gap completely, but it leaves the playside C-gap wide open.

Charbonnet takes the handoff, sees his double-team, and locks in on it. He has an opportunity to direct outside and take on the backer – likely picking up the first down – but he doesn’t bother to reassess until he’s at the line of scrimmage. By then, his intended gap has closed, and it’s too late to bounce outside.

This tunnel vision, where he locks onto a decision early, do cost him opportunities for a bigger play. It’s his other traits, his strength, burst, and balance, which tend to get him through.

In order to be the best runner he can be, this is definitely an area of refinement.

This tunnel vision doesn’t have any impact on Charbonnet in the passing game, where he’s genuinely very good. He hauled in 24 receptions in 2021, but I think there’s opportunity for more.

I saw good concentration, hauling in fastball-after-fastball at close range from DTR. He’s a natural at attacking the ball, plucking it from out and away from his body. He will double-clutch it at times, so there is something to watch for this year.

That said, DTR wasn’t the greatest at placing the ball in easy-to-catch locations. I saw a couple situations where Charbonnet would have to jump, adjust his route, get low, or even turn around completely to secure the catch. He showed very good body control as a receiver in these instances and nearly always reeled it in.

The next video is a compilation of all four receptions from the three games I tracked. Each clip shows consistency in his abilities as a receiver, which suggests this could be an asset for him at the next level.

In addition to his ability as a receiver, I also found that Charbonnet is a plus pass blocker. He knows his assignment as a blocker, and when engaging he does well to keep a wide base and anchor. His size is adequate to take on defensive backs and even linebackers.

He does have a tendency to drop his head just before engagement, and it seems like that affects his punch/strike. This is certainly an area where he can improve, and something to keep an eye on this year.

Whether as a runner or after-the-catch, I couldn’t help but notice that Charbonnet rarely puts two hands on the ball…even when driving through defenders. Normally I’d like to see better ball protection, but he is always carrying it high and tight, and he only has one fumble to his name. In 2019 as a freshman with Michigan, he lost the ball in the Illinois game – but even Coach Harbaugh suggested it was a fluke.

All-in-all, Charbonnet could be a draft steal. He’s a highly versatile back with potential to be a workhorse on all three downs. In another draft class, he could easily represent the top of the class – even without elite athleticism. As-is, however, he’s likely to fall a bit being in a class with other huge names like Bijan, Gibbs, Tucker, Evans, Tank, etc.

I plan to watch and see if he can clean up his game a bit; his occasional footwork issues and tunnel vision specifically would be the biggest issues for him to fix. If he does refine these, I wouldn’t be surprised to see his name mentioned with that top tier of backs.

Additional details:

In a loaded RB class, who do you have on top? Drop a comment in the comment box below to let us know your thoughts!

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2 thoughts on “Zach Charbonnet Scouting Report

  • I just read through a bunch of these. Really nice work man, I appreciate all the work you put into these and look forward to reading through more of the 23 class scouting reports as the college season moves forward.

    Reply

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