Scouting Report: Zach Zenner, RB, SDSU
ZZ is tops
The 2015 draft class is absurdly deep at running back. I’ve said this a bunch of times already, but it really does bear repeating. Today’s prospect is the kind of player who can get lost in this kind of draft. Zach Zenner played his college football in the Badlands (ok, close to the Badlands) at South Dakota State, and was a incredibly productive college runner. And, while some have wrongfully pigeon-holed Zenner as a fullback, he is all running back—just watch his film. Zenner churns out yards like the Energizer Bunny. He just keeps going and going and going—posting over 2,000 yards rushing in each of the last last three seasons. As a collegian, Zenner’s got 61 rushing touchdowns to his credit plus another 8 as a receiver. He was a one-man wrecking crew at SDSU.
You might think that success has gone to Zenner’s head. Not the case. This is actually a down-to-earth kid, who really seems to have his head on straight.
You have to respect the reality-based response here, when Zenner was asked about playing against smaller schools.
“I think there’s a little bit of that, yeah, and that’s natural just because it is FCS. There’s a reason it’s FCS. We’re not in the same division. Is it closer than it has been? I think so, closer than in the past as far as talent difference. But there’s a difference for a reason.’’
When asked if he still had a chip on his shoulder after not being heavily recruited out of high school...
“Not really. I didn’t have great numbers as a junior in high school and as a senior, I developed a little late. So I never expected to be heavily recruited.”
This gives you a window into how he ended up at SDSU. There’s not much question that Zenner could have been a starter at a major college program by the time he was a college sophomore. Now he has the look of a guy who can play in the NFL.
- Height - 5’11”
- Weight - 223
- Hand - 9 5/8”
- Bench - 25
- 40 - 4.60
- 3 Cone - 7.08
- 20 YD Shuttle - 4.14
- 60 Yd Shuttle - 11.69
- Vertical Jump - 41”
- Broad Jump - 10’1”
With outstanding performances in both the vertical and board jumps, you see where Zenner’s explosiveness comes from. Zenner also impressed on the bench and didn’t really disappoint anywhere. This was a successful performance.
- Size - You can’t fake 223 pounds. Zenner’s got an NFL build for sure. He’s built to take the pounding.
- Speed - He posted a respectable 4.60 at the combine but we see a faster player on film as has been the case with a lot of this draft class—indicating a possible slow track in Indy.
- Explosiveness - While we can debate Zenner’s speed, his 41 inch vertical leap and 10 foot broad jump are proof that he’s an explosive athlete.
- Feet - Zenner keeps his feet moving through contact and he resets well after contact for this reason. He’s not a wide-base guy, so this is an essential element for him if he’s going to run inside at the next level.
- Blocking - He looks pretty good on film, but it’s not like he’s done a ton of blocking with almost 1,200 touches as a college back. He has the size, agility and athleticism to pass protect.
- Hands - He’s caught plenty of passes and looks very good on film both out of the backfield and in the downfield attack when given the chance.
- Routes - He’s a little stiff in the hips, so we’re not talking about LeVeon Bell here, but Zenner runs a few nice routes on film and makes some chunk plays as a receiver. He can get open against linebackers and has the ability to line up in the slot.
- Ball security - Zenner uses two hands for most inside runs and at the end of runs. He’s got a good cradle when he uses a single hand and he has outstanding strength. Ball security does not project to be an issue and he had a good fumble rate as a collegian.
- Production - Zenner’s stats, while best taken with a grain of salt, are stunning. So good in fact that they open up some reason for concern. Few back ever touch the football as much as Zenner did in his four years at SDSU. He’s most certainly a high mileage college back.
Here’s a look at one of the few good pieces of game film on Zenner from this year’s tilt against Montana State.
Here’s a look at Zenner going up against Nebraska. Just in case you thought his game was a product of weak competition.
It’s also worth your time to take a look at Zenner’s highlight reels.
I like most of what I see on film with Zenner. He has an old-school to-the-point running style. He doesn’t get east-west very much at all—keeping his pads perpendicular to the line of scrimmage and keeps his feet moving through contact.
He throttles down a bit when he changes direction but he gets back up to speed surprisingly well for a big back. Zenner will get you what’s blocked and he has the ability to finish runs and find daylight when it’s there. He won’t run away from NFL defenses like he did at the collegiate level, but he can make plenty of big plays if his team blocks for him. Zenner’s ability as a receiver is a definite bonus as far as fantasy appeal goes. He has some undeveloped ceiling as a receiver.
As with all backs, his NFL destination will factor heavily in his fantasy valuation. I'll update Zenner after the draft in our post-draft rookie rankings.
More 2015 Scouting Reports:
- 2017 Playoff Rankings
- Wide Receiver Rankings Week 17
- Tight End Rankings Week 17
- Running Back Rankings Week 17
- Quarterback Rankings Week 17
- The Waiver Wire 12/26
- Tight End Rankings Week 16
- Wide Receiver Rankings Week 16
- Wide Receiver Rankings Week 16 Part Deux
- Running Back Rankings Week 16