Zach Zenner Player Evaluation

Scout's Dave-Te Thomas breaks down South Dakota State fullback Zach Zenner.

The first player in Football Championship Subdivision history to rush for over 2,000 yards three times,Zach Zenner had 337 carries for 2,019 yards (5.99 ypc) and 22 touchdowns, as he tied his career-high (2012) with 28 receptions for 331 yards (11.82 ypc) and four scores in 2014 on the way to earning unanimous All-American an honors for the third consecutive season. He accounted for 11 100-yard performances, reaching the 200-yard level twice.

In 2013, Zenner tallied 2,015 yards on a school-record 351 carries (5.7 ypc). His rushing total ranked second among FCS backs, while his 23 rushing touchdowns ranked fourth. He crossed the 100-yard mark in 12 of 14 games and surpassed the 200-yard mark three times. In 2012, he totaled 2,044 yards (6.8 ypc) with 13 scores. Zenner is a strong north-south runner with the leg drive to break tackles. He has good forward body lean and the proper pad level to drag defenders for extra yardage. He shows good urgency building to top speed with the agility to redirect through the inside holes. He will not explode in the open, but has the balance to punish the opponent upon contact. He also excels in the class room, as he is a three-time Academic All-American and received the Mickey Charles Award (FCS’s top scholar athlete) in 2014.

On 43 goal-line runs, he scored 20 times the last two seasons. He runs inside with good body lean and awareness to pick and slide. He has the ability to bounce outside with a short burst, but he’s not going to win long distance races. He has enough change of direction agility to make second level opponents miss, but is best served as a north-south runner than one who can impact going around the corners.

Zenner shows good upper body strength and leg drive to create and maintain a rush lane as a lead blocker, but it was rare for him to serve in that capacity, as he was usually the featured ball carrier. He has a good short area burst through the creases and the change of direction agility to make the initial tackler miss.

The Jackrabbit is the perfect moniker, as Zenner has the plant-and-drive agility to make precise cuts and shows very good balance and body control throughout his stride. He has fluid flexibility and quickness getting to top acceleration. He has the natural hands and upper body adjustment skills to turn and snatch the pass without having to throttle down. He has natural strength to explode through the tiniest of creases and does a good job of squaring his shoulders and keeping his feet moving to push the pile.

Zenner has a lot of John Riggins in him on the field, in that he plays with true aggression, but never gets reckless in his performance. He is a very intelligent athlete who garnered numerous academic awards during his career and the pre-med student is likely to enter the cancer research industry when his playing days end. He has good vision to locate and neutralize the blitz and an excellent feel for the soft spots in the zone, consistently getting there, to make the underneath catch.

Zenner comes out of his stance quickly and with good urgency, running at the proper pad level with legs churning to push the pile. He has the snap quickness to explode through the holes and the cutback agility to make the initial tackler miss. He shows a steady burst to turn the corners and comes out of his stance with good body lean to fall forward for extra yardage.

Zenner’s vision and pad level lets him attack the rush lanes with good urgency and balance. He is a bruising runner between the tackles with the loose hips to change direction quickly. He picks up his feet nicely to get through traffic and is nimble enough to redirect and cut back outside when the inside holes get clogged. When he gets too erect in his stance, he will lose some base and get pushed back through the rush lane.

Zach Zenner Scouting Combine measurables

5-11/223 (4.60 forty)
32-inch arm length
9 5/8-inch hands
41-inch vertical jump
121-inch broad jump
7.08 3 cone drill
4.14 20 yard shuttle
11.69 60 yard shuttle

Dave-Te’ Thomas is a sports writer, talent evaluator and scouting personnel consultant for a majority of teams in the National Football League. Thomas runs a scouting information service called NFL Scouting Services and produces THE NFL Draft Report, a publication provided by league headquarters to the media in preparation for the NFL Draft.


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