The Seattle Seahawks surprised us, or maybe it’s surprising that they can even surprise us at this point, in picking UCLA running back Zach Charbonnet with the No. 52 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. Positional value aside, which is something I am not a believer in, this pick is a little bit surprising on the surface. Just last year the organization invested a second-round pick in Kenneth Walker lll. Although, when you dig below the surface a little bit, it is a pick that starts to make more and more sense. One which honestly should get Seahawks fans even more excited for both the 2023 season and the overall future outlook of this team.
First and foremost, schematic fit aside, which we will get into below, the biggest reason this pick makes sense for me is it is going to help Kenneth Walker’s longevity as a player. Last season from Weeks 6 to 18, Walker lll had 226 touches and in one of those games he only had three due to an injury. If you remove that one, Walker lll, averaged 22.3 touches per game over that stretch. Over the course of a full 17 game season, that would be 379 touches, which is far too much if you want him to both stay healthy and effective throughout the regular season and the postseason. Bringing Charbonnet into the fold will see Walker lll lose multiple touches a game, which as weird as it is to say, is a good thing. If that number drops to, say, 16 a game, it will put him at just 272 touches over a full season which is a significantly more palatable number. So how will Charbonnet receive those touches in a crowded Seahawks backfield?
Zach Charbonnet gets a bit Marshawn Lynch-y at times, and I am absolutely here for it. pic.twitter.com/scf5VMXgXC— Doug Farrar ✍ (@NFL_DougFarrar) April 22, 2023
Seattle adds another weapon to their backfield in UCLA back Zach Charbonnet. pic.twitter.com/JYZImKkIYI— The Irish NFL Show (@IreNFL) April 29, 2023
Charbonnet is a really good and patient runner who excites me for this backfield because of his ability to locate and attack cutback lanes. Some of Kenneth Walker lll’s most explosive and mesmerizing runs last season came when the designed run lane was clogged and he had to kick it to a cutback lane, something Charbonnet excels at. His ability to diagnose those holes is going to lead to multiple chunk plays for the former Bruin. Additionally, despite being a “smaller” back at 6’0, 214 pounds, Charbonnet is still able to bounce off tacklers and keep his legs churning inside the tackles. Kenneth Walker lll was great for the Seahawks in short yardage situations, but Charbonnet’s overall power might lead to him becoming the goal line back this season.
As we know, Shane Waldron’s offense is something that features a lot of outside zone running plays. Charbonnet is coming from a school that used a lot of man blocking schemes, but for me I see no problem for him in transitioning to a zone blocking scheme because of his patience, acceleration and vision. Charbonnet had multiple outside carries at UCLA where he almost had a running start because of where he was lined up on the spacing on the field. This is something that will not happen in the NFL, but it is not a difference that is going to hinder his game. He possesses the burst to beat more athletic defenders to the outside as well as having the elusiveness in his game to make them miss in the open field. Charbonnet is going to be an impactful back in both the inside and outside zone running plays for this Seattle offense.
Zach Charbonnet is the most Seahawks pick. Really rugged runner with awesome contact balance and enough wiggle. Really similar style to Chris Carson. Adds physicality like this to the running game: pic.twitter.com/GAxu4DHZ94— Bobby Football (@Rob__Paul) April 29, 2023
This for me is where the pick makes the most sense. Including the playoff game, Walker lll only had 28 catches for the Seattle Seahawks last season. For UCLA in only 10 games last season, Charbonnet had 37 catches, which is 18 more than Walker lll had in his entire NCAA career. Charbonnet by no means is an Austin Ekeler type receiver out of the backfield who is going to haul in 4+ catches a game. But importantly, he runs the full running back route tree, and he runs it well. Additionally, he has the understanding of when to present his pads to the quarterback on swings, flats and other quick routes, especially when the quarterback is under pressure. Walker is still working on adding those aspects to his game. On top of that, Charbonnet also was tasked with a lot of the 3rd down pass protection for UCLA. This is something Walker lll has not done much of in his career, and when he has, he has looked shaky at it.
I know for most the initial reaction to the Charbonnet pick was what the (insert word I cannot say in this article). But in the grand scheme of things, I think it is one that makes a lot of sense and only makes this offense more dangerous and dynamic for multiple reasons. The first being he is going to be able to take a significant amount of work off of Kenneth Walker’s plate which is going to allow him to stay healthy. Second, the Seahawks now have two backs who can punish a defense late in the game with the lead. Lastly, he brings an element that Walker simply does not have in his game yet, which is the passing game impact.