Rookie Spotlight: Zach Charbonnet
By Cody Folden
The best thing Zach Charbonnet did for himself was to go back to school for his senior season. While his 2021 season was productive with 203 rushes, 1137 yards, and 13 touchdowns. Charbonnet was probably a top-10 rookie back last year. There wasn’t as much need for running backs last year as there is this year. In 2022 his stats were, 195 carries, 1359 yards, and 14 touchdowns. This year solidified some of the negatives that he worked on to become a top 3 rookie back for this year. All signs point to Charbonnet being a productive back in the NFL.
Charbonnet is one of the only backs this year that can consistently line up in the slot or be the outside receiver, and win. His receiving stats show that with 37 receptions for 321 yards last year, with better numbers this year than last. He showed that he is more than just a banana or screen game pass catcher and can win on any route.
Charbonnet’s vision improved dramatically over the course of this year. This is what separates him from other backs in this class. He knows where the hole is, or is going to be. He knows how to make sure the defense won't beat him to his spot. With this, he doesn't have many negative runs if the backfield is clean once he gets the ball.
Wimpy arm tackles will not take Charbonnet down. Although this is true, it is not the reason I put balance as a strength. Charbonnet has the best footwork out of everyone not named Bijan Robinson in this class. His plant foot is great. His route running is good and he has every move to make the positive yardage runs out of nothing. Get Charbonnet in space and he will shine for you.
Zach Charbonnet ran a 4.53. He is not slow. He just runs at that speed all the time. I don’t see a second gear, because he runs in his second gear. In the NFL, I could possibly see him get run down on big plays because of this. This is the only negative in his speed. He has a great 10-yard split of 1.54 seconds and will make you miss.
Stretch-run plays seem to get the better of him sometimes. His vision is great as stated above, but he doesn't use the sideline to his advantage as much as I would like him to. Instead of beating the defender to the sideline, he lets the defender dictate that. He has the speed and vision to beat any linebacker to that spot and doesn't utilize it. In college, he would rather cut it back in and take the defender head-on. In the NFL, that will only get you hurt. Use the sideline to gain the extra yardage and reduce your chances of getting pile driven into the ground.
Player Comparisons: James Conner
What was James Conner like in college? As one of my good friends would say, he was the Terminator. For what he had to go through and all the hardships to come back and obliterate teams and destroy gameplans for defenses, people would think he comes from a computer. Zach Charbonnet does this in similar ways. He can beat you in the backfield, out wide, in the screen game, and even in the play-action game being the decoy. He is a do-everything back like Conner was.
I almost picked Charbonnet’s 2021 tape at LSU that ultimately put Zach on the map. I decided to go with his 2022 Stanford tape where he dominates all game long. His stats for the game are 21 rushes for 198 yards and 3 touchdowns. Along with 5 receptions for 61 yards.
Chip Kelly changed the game when he went from Oregon to Philadelphia. He started this motion-era football. Kelly brought in Charbonnet his junior year to be the dynamic back. He has shown that he has become that.
Miami Dolphins: I believe this to be the obvious spot. They brought back every running back they had this last year and that only means one thing, they will be drafting one. Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson are good complementary backs and are good in certain areas. Charbonnet can be the back to come in and withstand an RB1 snap count. The other two would benefit by getting snaps that focus more on their skills and making the most of them.
New Orleans Saints: We still don't know what will be happening to Alvin Kamara, because of that they went and grabbed Jamaal Williams to make sure they have someone they can trust. You can trust Jamaal Williams in the backfield and get you the famed 10 yards. Zach Charbonnet can be the change of pace back Williams needs to help spread the field. Kamara, in my opinion, has shown that he is better in a committee than being the featured back. He looked better when Mark Ingram was there and producing alongside him. Let's get back to that with Kamara, Williams, and Charbonnet this year and let Kamara walk sooner than later and let Charbonnet take over.
New York Giants: Saquon Barkley is absolutely dynamic and an RB1 in fantasy. He also has shown that he has an injury history. If the Giants brought in Charbonnet, you let Barkley be his dynamic self in the backfield and motion Charbonnet all over the field. For a pure football move, this is a no-brainer. In fantasy, I would like this in PPR, or half-PPR leagues.
Arizona Cardinals: This was an obvious best fit based on the player comparison. James Conner is a good running back. When he is in the backfield he is a weapon. He also has shown he just can't stay on the field. Bring in Zach Charbonnet, and don’t change the offense at all. Let him lighten the load for Conner to make him the most effective he can be. Also, with Kyler Murray out for the first half of the year, they will rely heavily on the running game.
Cody Folden joined the Dynasty Pros team in 2023. He plays in many dynasty leagues but dabbles in other leagues like devy, contract, and scouting leagues. He loves to dive deep into learning about prospects coming up through college and seeing them thrive when they get to the league.