Anyone who has watched UCLA over the past few years knows what a beast Zach Charbonnet is and how important he was to the UCLA offense during his time in Westwood. Now, he’ll get a chance to show that he can be the same kind of offensive difference-maker in the NFL, as he was drafted in Round 2 by the Seattle Seahawks.
Zach Charbonnet Analysis
When talking about (and watching) Charbonnet, it’s hard to not get excited. It seems like there aren’t enough compliments to give this guy. He’s, big, strong, fast, and powerful. He was the cornerstone of Chip Kelly’s spread attack. He ran with serious intensity. And he was a threat to take it to the house whenever he touched the ball. You could argue that his transfer to Westwood was what really sparked the turnaround for Kelly’s Bruins into a winning program.
Charbonnet was an uber-productive back that put up some very good numbers in his college career. And although he was always good, he showed improvement in his senior year, a trajectory you always want to see. Charbonnet’s 2022 saw him rush for 1359 yards for 14 touchdowns and 7 yards per carry. He also caught 37 balls for 321 yards and 8.7 yards per reception.
Those were all career highs, but it’s not like he wasn’t productive in other years. He had 11 touchdowns as a freshman at Michigan and 13 touchdowns as a junior. He also had over 1100 yards rushing and almost 200 yards receiving his junior year. He never dipped below 4.9 yards per carry, and that was his freshman year.
In all four years, he rushed for over 3300 yards and 39 touchdowns at 5.9 yards a carry. He also had 589 yards receiving for 7.9 yards per reception. The only worry here is if Charbonnet has too much tread on the tires. He did have 565 carries in college. It probably won’t be an issue, but it’s something to keep an eye on.
Lance Zierlein, NFL.com’s draft analyst, does a good job laying out Charbonnet’s strengths and potential weaknesses at the next level. Charbonnet profiles as an upright runner that has the potential to build speed and power, but he doesn’t quite have the wiggle you see from looser backs. Zierlein compares him to AJ Dillon. I think that’s a solid comparison.
To me, Charbonnet’s profile and running style reminds me of Demarco Murray. Murray was a guy that needed to get a head of steam going downhill to beat you, but once he did, he was dangerous. Charbonnet is similar.
But what about the fit in Seattle? A common criticism I’ve heard is that this was a bad pick because Seattle already has a very good back in Kenneth Walker, and therefore this was not a need. And I get that criticism; it did occur to me as well when they made the pick.
Having said that, I don’t think that makes this a bad pick, per se. First of all, Charbonnet is a great player, and it’s rarely a bad thing to add a great player to your team. Charbonnet will be productive with this team. Second of all, we know Pete Carroll wants to run the ball; he always has. Running backs get hurt a lot, and there are very few backs these days that are the exclusive ball carriers for their team like you used to see back in the day. Having a 1-2 punch at running back is valuable, and the Seahawks now have that.
Ultimately in Seattle, you’re now looking at an offense with a newly productive Geno Smith, Kenneth Walker, Zach Charbonnet, Tyler Lockett, D.K. Metcalf, and Jaxon Smith-Njigba. If all goes well, that’s a dangerous offense.
At the end of the day, Zach Charbonnet was a game-changing player at UCLA. He now has the chance to prove that he can be that in the NFL as well. I’d expect him to make good of that chance.