The Buffalo Bills and running backs. It’s a topic that often feels like a renewed take on The Odd Couple. To run or not to run? For the Bills, there are merits to both sides of the coin, and they pair beautifully when brought up in conversation.
While many in Bills Mafia find the idea of drafting a running back nauseating, Buffalo has a need an no clear top dog in the room. General manager Brandon Beane must understand this, evidenced by the team’s research of multiple running back prospects this draft cycle.
That includes players not named Bijan Robinson. NFL Network Insider Tom Pelissero reported last week that UCLA running back Zach Charbonnet paid an official top-30 visit to One Bills Drive ahead of the 2023 NFL Draft.
Many consider Charbonnet among the top three best running backs in this draft class. He carries the potential to become a three-down back in the NFL, within the right system.
At the NFL Scouting Combine, Charbonnet measured 6’0”, 214 pounds, with 32” arms and 9 7/8” hands. He ran a 4.53-second 40-yard dash and 1.54-second 10-yard split, with a 37” vertical jump and 10’2” broad jump. Taken as a whole, decent results, but far from elite.
In four college seasons between Michigan and UCLA, Charbonnet totaled 566 carries for 3,361 yards (5.9 ypc), and 39 rushing touchdowns; adding 75 receptions for 589 yards. It was Charbonnet’s final two seasons at UCLA where he made a name for himself. As a junior in 2021, Charbonnet had 203 rushes for 1,149 yards (5.7 ypc), with 13 touchdowns; adding 24 receptions for 197 yards. Charbonnet’s senior season in 2022 saw him total 195 carries for 1,362 yards (7.0 ypc), with 14 touchdowns; with 37 receptions for 321 yards.
Scouts praise Charbonnet for his instinctual running and prowess as a north-south downhill ball carrier. While he lacks elite speed, Charbonnet’s production speaks to his potential as an every-down back in the NFL. His high pad level is a concern with most scouting reports, and is something that will occasionally get Charbonnet in trouble against defenders who are able to out-leverage him. Charbonnet will need to improve on hesitancy and “happy feet” behind the line of scrimmage and work toward deploying a more explosive gear between the tackles. If he can dedicate himself to becoming a more well-rounded blocker on passing downs, Charbonnet could be one of the better finds after Round 1 of the 2023 NFL Draft.
Does Zach Charbonnet fit the Bills? If the organization hopes to add a high-upside running back prospect with traits to become a featured back, Charbonnet could be just what the Bills are looking for in a long-term investment at the position. Widely viewed as a Day 2 prospect, drafting Charbonnet wouldn’t require the Bills to use their top draft assets to land a well-rounded and still-ascending player. Additionally, Charbonnet is described as a well-regarded high-character prospect both on and off the field, with strong academics and with a high football IQ. Taking into consideration Charbonnet’s reasoning for leaving Michigan for UCLA — to be closer to his disabled sister — and one can see why head coach Sean McDermott is likely interested in Zach Charbonnet.