A continuing series of scouting reports for potential Cowboys draft picks.
Name: Zach Charbonnet
Weight: 214 pounds
Combine Results: 4.53 40-yard dash, 37” vertical, 10’2” broad, 18 bench press reps
Zach Charbonnet was always destined for greatness, but he took an unexpected path to get here. The California native was a star in high school, graded as a four-star recruit and the fourth-best running back in his class. He had offers from just about every Power 5 school, but ultimately opted for the Michigan Wolverines.
Charbonnet saw the field right away as a true freshman, and as part of a timeshare with Hassan Haskins, he led the team in rushing while setting a program record for most touchdown runs by a freshman. Heading into the COVID-shortened 2020 season, Charbonnet fell behind Haskins in the pecking order. With promising freshman Blake Corum also in the fold, Charbonnet entered the transfer portal.
That led him back home to play for the Bruins, one of the many schools that had initially offered him out of high school. Charbonnet was immediately at home in Chip Kelly’s downhill running scheme and he topped 1,100 yards and 13 touchdowns in each of the next two seasons. He was also a stabilizing force for the Bruins offense, playing a huge role in the program’s turnaround. When Charbonnet arrived on campus, Kelly had won just 10 games in three years; Charbonnet’s Bruins won 17 games in his two years there. Now, he is one of the top five runners in the draft and a likely Day 2 pick, ready to bring his bruising style of play to the NFL.
Burst: Charbonnet won’t impress anyone with his burst but he isn’t lacking in this area either. He’s a downhill runner who builds up speed, but he does have decent pop when trying to explode forward, largely due to the momentum he carries in his frame.
Balance: He has great contact balance. Arm tackles will not work against him. He’s broken 12 tackles in the last two years and was in the top 10 in yards after contact both seasons. Charbonnet plays with a low center of gravity, which makes him very hard to bring down.
Lateral Agility: Not a great lateral mover, Charbonnet is best between the tackles in gap running schemes. He’s sufficient on zone running concepts, and he has good enough anticipation to set up defenders before making his cuts, but he’s not agile enough to carry a heavy workload on zone runs.
Ball Carrying: Two fumbles in four years is indicative of Charbonnet’s ability here. He doesn’t put the ball in danger and keeps it high and tight. He takes a lot of punishment at the point of attack, but always protects the ball first and foremost.
Pass Catching: Charbonnet saw an expanded role as a pass catcher at UCLA, though much of it came on shallow routes out of the backfield. It was rare - 7.5% of his snaps in the last two years, to be exact - that UCLA lined him up as a receiver. He is a reliable target, with just three drops the last two years, but his route tree is decidedly limited. He doesn’t have the agility to develop much in that regard, but is a reliable checkdown option.
Blocking: Charbonnet is just as fierce in pass protection as he is when carrying the ball. He understands how to create good leverage and has a surprisingly good anchor ability for a running back. He’s someone you can task with blitz pickup and not really think twice about it.
Athleticism: He is a decent enough athlete, but he doesn’t have any trait that sticks out. He’s not a great cutter, doesn’t have elite burst, and isn’t a breakaway speed guy. He’s functional in all areas athletically speaking, which gives him a high floor and low ceiling when projecting to the NFL.
Processing: Charbonnet is a high IQ player, and it can be seen in a variety of ways. He does a great job of reading the defense and being patient in his running pattern. He is equally perceptive as a blocker, identifying his assignment and reacting on the fly when pass protection breaks down.
Intangibles: Charbonnet is a strong presence in the locker room, and was hailed as a team leader from the moment he arrived at UCLA. He has a strong work ethic and expects the same out of his teammates.