The Los Angeles Rams are a storied franchise when it comes to the running back position. Eric Dickerson ran rampant in the 80s and still holds the NFL record for most rushing yards in a season with 2,105. The Rams traded for Marshall Faulk prior to the 1999 season and dominated the early 2000s, winning an MVP title in 2000.
After Faulk came Steven Jackson. Jackson made the Rams worth watching at times throughout his career as he never made the postseason or was on a team with a winning record. Jackson finished as the franchise’s all-time leading rusher.
A few years afterJackson came Todd Gurley. Gurley was off to what looked like a historic career before knee injuries derailed his career. He won the NFL’s Offensive Player of the Year in 2017, and likely would have repeated in 2018 had he not gotten hurt.
The value of the running back position has tanked over the last decade. However, the Rams have always been a franchise built on the back of their running backs. While Cam Akers has shown flashes, rarely has he shown that he consistently be that guy. Akers has a four-game stretch at the end of his rookie season and four-game stretch to end last season that stand out. Everything in between has been pretty lackluster.
This isn’t to say that the Rams need to replace Akers. He’s still a very capable running back and has shown flashes in spurts. In the current NFL landscape, teams are consistently using two running backs. The Kansas City Chiefs have Isaih Pacheco and Jerrick McKinnon. In Green Bay, the Packers have used Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon. The NFL is much more about having a solid running back duo than your typical bell-cow of the 90s.
Yes, it’s true that the Rams have needs that should be prioritized over the running back position. After losing Leonard Floyd, they desperately need an edge rusher. The Rams traded Jalen Ramsey and need to find another cornerback. That doesn’t even mention the need for offensive line which benefits the running back position.
With that said, we’ve seen what having an elite running back can unlock in the Sean McVay offense. Not every running back has the same skillset as Todd Gurley and neither does Charbonnet. However, Charbonnet can do it all and brings something to the table that the Rams running back room doesn’t already have.
It’s no secret that the Rams have lacked a powerful running back in their offense and that is one of Charbonnet’s biggest strengths. He ranked 13th in yards after contact last season with 806 of his over 1300 yards coming after contact.
Despite having a similar physical running style as someone like Derrick Henry, Charbonnet can still make defenders miss. Charbonnet’s 69 missed tackles forced were the fourth-most for a PAC-12 running back since 2016.
The UCLA running back is physical and he’s elusive. On top of that, he also provides value in the passing game. He’s a willing pass-blocker in pass protection and has 61 receptions over the last two years as a receiver with a career-high 37 last season. The last Rams running back to have that many receptions in a single season in college was Gurley at Georgia.
There’s really no denying Charbonnet’s talent. Still, as far as the running back position goes, the Rams are probably better of taking a different position of need and then selecting a running back later on day three.
However, there’s another aspect of this that’s not discussed, but should very much be part of the discussion. That is Charbonnet’s popularity in the Los Angeles area. Over the past two years at UCLA, Charbonnet may have been the most popular non-pro athlete outside of Caleb Williams.
Charbonnet grew up in Los Angeles, attending Oak Christian High School. After spending two years at Michigan, Charbonnet returned home and became a star at UCLA. Not many athletes in the Los Angeles area have a connection with the LA sports fans like Charbonnet does. It only makes sense that Charbonnet continue his NFL career where he’s played high school and college football.
That connection to the Los Angeles fanbase would normally be an afterthought. However, the Rams are taking a step back in 2023 with more of a focus on 2024. Their over/under in wins is currently set to 7.5 and there is a good chance that they hit the under. Drafting Charbonnet would attract the Los Angeles fanbase in a lost year and also provide excitement for the running back room heading into the 2024 season with a strong rookie campaign.
Again, this isn’t necessarily advocating for the Rams to draft Charbonnet in second or third rounds. Edge rusher or cornerback should still be the priority. However, with the need for exciting playmakers on offense and potentially needing excitement in the team in 2023 as they look ahead to 2024, Charbonnet is a pick that might make sense especially in Los Angeles.