Reggie Bush, a day after it was reported that the Detroit Lions were offering him a three-down gig, signed in the Motor City, simultaneously becoming a potential cold-blooded PPR killing machine while submarining the fantasy value of Mikel Leshoure.
Bush, who wasn’t exactly used as a workhorse back in Miami – receiving 12 carries or fewer in five games last season – was lured to the Lions with the promise of three-down work, meaning Leshoure has possibly been relegated to strict backup status. I think that’s a bit on the impossible-to-believe side, but even a nominal commitment to Bush as an every-down guy would safely lead to 230 carries and 50 receptions in 2013.
[Update: Head coach Jim Schwartz said April 9 that Bush could catch upwards of 80 passes this year.]
It’s hard to imagine that the Lions will be worse in 2013 than they were in 2012. Detroit’s ineptitude was a fantasy boon for owners of Matthew Stafford and Joique Bell, who racked up meaningless garbage time points seemingly every week as the Lions resorted to panicked throw-only comeback mode.
Even so, in the pass happiest offense in league history (Stafford chucked the pigskin a record-setting 727 times in 2012), Bush – excellent in the pass game – has a chance to maintain top-12 running back value in PPR leagues. I’d drop him lower in standard scoring leagues, somewhere around RB15-17.
There are actual, real-life numbers that support fantasy owners’ love of Bush in Detroit: Leshoure and Bell caught a combined 86 passes last season, 43 of those in the fourth quarter, also known in Detroit as garbage time.
Bell, with 65 targets in 2012, was the fourth most targeted running back in the league, behind Darren Sproles, Ray Rice, and Marcel Reece, another garbage time hero. Bush wasn’t asked to do a whole lot in the Dolphins’ passing game last year, grabbing only 35 receptions for 292 yards and two scores. He’s shown his pass catching chops though, racking up 88 receptions as a Saint in 2006 and 73 grabs in 2007, despite missing four games.
“Definitely where we are, he definitely would be the missing piece,” Lions’ guard Rob Sims said in an interview with the Detroit Free Press. “With our aerial attack and he can catch the ball the way we can out of the backfield and some of the other running game stuff we got in place, I think it’s tailor-made for him.”
It’s not unreasonable to think the Lions plan to plug Bush into the role formerly occupied by the electric, concussion-plagued Jahvid Best. In a committee role in 2010 and 2011, Best reeled in 85 receptions for 774 yards in just 22 games, good for a per-game average of 3.8 catches for 35 yards – numbers that are probably closer to Bush’s fantasy floor than his fake football ceiling. Best also averaged 3.9 yards per carry in his short Lions career.
“I think it was obvious with the stuff that Jahvid could do his first five games when we had him healthy (in 2011), we were just better,” Sims said. “Simple as that. We missed that last year for sure.”
Bush isn’t exactly a slouch in the running game either. He cracked 1,000 yards rushing with the Dolphins in 2011 and came within 14 yards of the 1,000-yard mark in 2012. He scored six rushing touchdowns in each of his two years in Miami.
There’s no questioning Bush’s passing game prowess, and in an offense that isn’t about to magically transform into a balanced unit, that’s all sorts of fantasy goodness. The best part, perhaps, is that even if the Lions’ offensive coaches commit to maintaining some semblance of pass-run balance in 2013, Bush will theoretically be the (only) beneficiary.
A cursory glance of rotoViz’s 2013 Bush projections shows that while his upside isn’t exactly breathtaking, he doesn’t have a downside that should scare a fantasy owner out of drafting Bush as a borderline top-12 runner.
rotoViz projects Bush’s fantasy ceiling as similar to Fred Jackson’s 2011 campaign, when Jackson totaled more than 1,300 yards and scored six touchdowns. His comparable for the “floor” side of his fantasy value? Jospeh Addai in 2011, when the aging runner gained 433 yards (sporting a 3.7 YPC) and scored a single touchdown.