The Cincinnati Bengals’ roster has a few more questions on it than in previous offseasons, but the main tent poles are in place. One such position with a plethora of question marks this spring, though, is at running back.
While Joe Mixon has been one of the most productive backs in team history, questions abound about his long-term status. Samaje Perine left for Denver, paving the way for a possible bigger role for the re-signed Trayveon Williams—but who the heck knows what the future holds for Chris Evans?
Historically speaking, if the Bengals want to pursue their next franchise running back, it’s likely to be a Round 2 pick. But, they’ve also struck some gold on Day 3 in the past.
One of the better running backs in this class happens to fall in that range. With his ceiling looking like an early Night 2 call, the devaluation of the position could have Zach Charbonnet land in someone’s lap as Round 4 kicks off.
Weight: 214 pounds
Age: 22 years old (23 in January)
40-Yard Dash: 4.53
Bench Press: 18 reps
Draft Projection: Round 2-3
Charbonnet is a tough runner, who has a knack for making one critical move in his rushing attempt that springs him for extra yardage. He’s a tough runner who also falls forward frequently, and it’s not uncommon to see multiple tacklers needed from the opposing defense to get him to the turf.
After two years at Michigan, Charbonnet transferred to UCLA to take his football career to the next level. He added the ability to become an effective receiving weapon out of the backfield, going from 14 catches in two years as a Wolverine, to 61 in his final two as a Bruin.
Additionally, Charbonnet didn’t notch a single fumble in four years against solid competition. He became a well-rounded back, known as a Jack-of-all-Trades.
Charbonnet is a slashing runner, who possesses a solid build. He often uses the Mixon-like ”jump-cut” with high effectiveness, carving out big plays when doing so.
This is evident in his 7.0 yards per carry average last year and 5.9 over four years. And, as mentioned above, he appears to be very sure-handed with the ball in his hands—a coveted trait by any team.
He is a bit of a touchdown machine as well, averaging nearly 10 scores on the ground per year in college. Thrown in the growth as a pass-catcher and the limited tape showing effective blocking, and you have a guy who has three-down potential in the NFL.
Unfortunately, when looking at his workouts (and a little bit on tape), Charbonnet doesn’t seem to possess that truly “electric” or “wow trait”. He’s solid across the board and a guy who coaches love, but long speed, top-notch wiggle, and overall elusiveness are all questions.
Zach Charbonnet is a RB prospect in the 2023 draft class. He scored a 8.62 RAS out of a possible 10.00. This ranked 228 out of 1647 RB from 1987 to 2023. https://t.co/ktTtUcaGqD #RAS pic.twitter.com/ZLjdET5nZD— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) March 19, 2023
He’ll probably need to be in a system that favors a bit of north-south running, or “one-cut-and-go”. And, while he developed well as a receiver, many of the routes were passes in the flat or wheel routes.
He was effective in those routes, but pro teams may ask him to expand his route tree a little bit. Charbonnet has also had a relatively-high amount of touches—641—for a guy entering the league and having that number be affected by a COVID-shortened 2020.
When Charbonnet sees the play, plants his foot, and makes the cut, it’s explosive and usually for a big gain. He’s physical and does everything asked of him as a potential pro back.
The floor is high with him, but the height of the ceiling will be dependent on the system he enters, the offensive line in front of him and said team having a bit of a “lightning” complement to his well-rounded “thunder” approach.
Still, given the production, versatility, and lack of fumbles in college, Charbonnet is poised for a solid NFL career. And, with what the Bengals ask of their backs and how they have used both Perine and Mixon in recent years, Charbonnet’s style could be a good fit in Cincinnati.
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