NFL Draft Analysis: Running back James Charles’ strength and speed might help him find an NFL team

Charles rushed for 1,030 yards and 11 touchdowns in 39 games with the Owls.


Eston Parker III

University Press stock photo of running back James Charles.

Bryce Totz, Sports Editor

With the first round of the NFL Draft starting tonight, the University Press will conclude its coverage of FAU hopefuls with running back James Charles. Charles announced his commitment in December via Twitter and thanked all three head coaches that he worked with.

“I would like to thank Coach [Charlie] Partridge, who gave me the opportunity to become an Owl,” he wrote. “I would like to thank Coach [Lane] Kiffin and his amazing staff for building a foundation and setting a new standard in Paradise! I also want to thank Coach [Willie] Taggart and his staff, who are trying to help the program reach new heights!”

Charles started his career at FAU in 2018 and obtained 20 rushing yards on three attempts. In the following season, he played in 13 games including the Boca Raton Bowl, where he racked up 54 yards and two touchdowns on nine carries.

His most notable season was the 2020 shortened campaign when he rushed for a career-high 429 yards in nine games. Charles also had the longest run of his career for 32 yards in the same year.

Charles’ presence was significantly lighter in 2021, having just 168 yards on 47 carries in 12 games.

Here are the strengths and weaknesses of Charles, and where he may fit in: 


Charles has shown he can adapt to a new environment and work with a good team surrounding him. His ability to learn a new scheme quickly will help him adapt in the NFL. In 2020, for example, he exploded for a breakout season and saw the field more than any running back. 

Over time, he became stronger and evaded tackles. His physical strength will transition well into the NFL since most of the linebackers are better built there as well. Along with his strength, Charles sped his game up through rigorous training and practice.


Despite taking advantage of the 2020 season, Charles lacks the skill that some teams are looking for. A well-built FAU offense from top to bottom surrounded him, which allowed him to succeed. Some NFL teams may see this as just fitting in like a peg.

He also played some smaller defensive backs in Conference USA that may not compare to the size of what he will see in the future.  

Best Fit

Charles will most likely find himself as an undrafted free agent unless he is picked in the sixth or seventh round. That is simply because of the competition he has entering the draft. Some of the other running backs such as Kenneth Walker III, Dameon Pierce, and James Cook will be the priority.

With many teams looking to expand their running back corps this year, there is a chance that Charles can join a squad. The Houston Texans might be the best fit for him. The Texans’ only running back under contract will be veteran Rex Burkhead, who is starting to slow down in performance. 

Burkhead, head coach Arthur Smith, and running back coach Michael Pitre will help Charles learn the rules and plays that exist in the NFL.

Bryce Totz is the Sports Editor at the University Press. For more information regarding this or other stories, email him at [email protected], or tweet him @brycetotz.