Zach Charbonnet Fantasy Outlook: Can He Overtake Kenneth Walker III as the Seattle Seahawks’ Main RB?

Can rookie second-rounder Zach Charbonnet push Kenneth Walker III for control of the Seattle Seahawks' backfield? What is his fantasy outlook for this season?

Seattle Seahawks running back Zach Charbonnet is looking to make an immediate impact as a rookie. Opening the season behind incumbent Kenneth Walker III, will Charbonnet have a rookie year more like Rashaad Penny or Walker himself? What is his fantasy football outlook for the 2023 season?

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Zach Charbonnet’s Fantasy Outlook

I hope everyone out there is able to find something they love as much as the Seahawks love spending draft capital on running backs. Just one year after using a second-round pick on Walker, Seattle used another one on Charbonnet.

The one thing I will offer in their defense is they encountered a real problem last season when Walker was forced to miss time. After losing Penny, who is now in Philadelphia, the Seahawks seriously lacked running back depth. At the very least, Charbonnet is a reliable, if rather expensive, insurance policy for Walker.

Last season, following Penny’s season-ending injury, the Seahawks had Travis Homer, DeeJay Dallas, and Tony Jones behind Walker.

The first two are pure special teamers, “in case of emergency” guys. The latter should probably be in the XFL or USFL. At 214 pounds and with an excellent college profile, Charbonnet could be a three-down back if needed.

Given the Seahawks’ depth chart at running back, we can be supremely confident Charbonnet is the proper handcuff to Walker. In the event of a Walker injury, Charbonnet would step into the RB1 role and see as much work as he could handle. What we don’t know for sure is how much standalone value Charbonnet will have.

On the one hand, the Seahawks’ decision to use a premium draft pick on another running back feels like an indictment on Walker. On the other hand, we saw them use a first-round pick on Penny back in 2018, only to relegate him to a seldom-used backup to seventh-rounder Chris Carson.

Furthermore, last season, Walker was the seldom-used backup to Penny until Penny went down. Had Penny not gotten hurt, it’s entirely possible Walker would have remained a backup the entire season. There’s a nonzero chance the same fate awaits Charbonnet.

With that said, Charbonnet does bring skills that Walker does not have. Walker saw just a 7.2% target share as a rookie. Charbonnet’s best-season college target share was 11.2% in his senior year. We never know what Pete Carroll is thinking, but it stands to reason Charbonnet should immediately be the Seahawks’ primary passing-down back.

Unfortunately, that role may not be particularly valuable if that’s all Charbonnet is. Last season, Geno Smith targeted the running back position just 15.2% of the time, the sixth-lowest rate in the league. Fantasy managers hoping for a strong rookie year from Charbonnet will either need that to increase by a good 3-5% or for him to seriously eat into Walker’s carries.

Should Fantasy Managers Draft Charbonnet at His ADP?

Walker is going to open the season as the clear lead back. Even assuming Charbonnet is the receiving back, he may be limited to a handful of targets each game and only a couple of carries, with Walker dominating goal-line work. Even if Charbonnet sees 8-10 carries a game, that won’t be enough to sustain any fantasy value without touchdowns.

The good news is the running back positon is volatile. Walker could easily get hurt or struggle to perform, opening the door for Charbonnet to earn an increased role. For that reason, I like the upside that comes with Charbonnet at his RB40, No. 118 overall ADP.

My projections have Charbonnet at 143 carries for 602 yards and 6.8 touchdowns on the ground, plus 41 catches for 272 yards and 1.8 touchdowns through the air. I have him averaging 10.6 ppg and finishing as the RB34. And these projections assume he never overtakes Walker as the lead back.

Essentially, I believe Charbonnet is priced at his floor. I have him ranked at RB34 because I just can’t get him any higher, but I definitely like him at that price. I certainly don’t want Walker at his RB17 price, given that I projected Walker to finish as the RB27.

The Seahawks should have a very prolific offense this season. Acquiring pieces of it looks like a good move for fantasy. Given the uncertainty in this backfield, give me the cheaper option with just as much upside.

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