When Reggie Bush was given many dollars by the Detroit Lions, there was hope in the air again. He may lose some goal-line touches to Mikel Leshoure, because ramming into things is pretty much the only skill Leshoure possesses. But that’s not what filled the fake footballing masses with gleeful giddiness.
Bush is at his best when he’s consistently given opportunities to find open space and create. Maybe that’s done through toss plays when he can use his speed on the outside, instead of battling through the much larger bodies in the middle. But it’s done most effectively by using Bush as a receiver in the flats, and in a Darren Sproles role.
That’s why there was much fantasy giggling when Bush signed with the Lions. Oh, he’ll receive hand-offs, and do the things that a conventional running back does. But he’ll also be playing with Matthew Stafford, the quarterback who led the league in passing attempts this past season with 727. And it wasn’t even close, as Drew Brees finished second with 670.
There was immediate chatter that Bush could return to his point-per-reception league fantasy stud status that he held earlier in his career. Or actually, the earliest in his career. As in the first year, when he caught 88 passes on 121 targets for 742 yards, all career highs. Now Lions head coach Jim Schwartz would like to validate that talk, presumably because he owns Bush in a PPR league.
Yesterday Schwartz said that Bush’s receptions in the 2013 season could top out at 80, which would easily trump his reception totals over the past three seasons (highest in a single season during that stretch: 43). And it would be 80 fantasy points on catches alone, without factoring in any yardage either through the air or on the ground, or touchdowns.
History — or at least the singular sample size we have during Bush’s rookie year — says the resulting yardage total from Bush’s frequent catching could be quite profitable too. Bush’s receiving yards total in 2006 (again, 742) is several stratospheres higher than any other point in his career. The runner-up season was in 2008, when he finished with 417 yards.
You’ll see those numbers and remind me that throughout much of his time in New Orleans, Bush was often used as a pass-catching back, as he topped out at only 157 carries. That skews the comparison, you’ll say, as Bush then had 443 carries over two years in Miami. And you’re not wrong, entirely imaginary person.
But following Schwartz’s projection, there’s reason to expect both the New Orleans Bush, and the Miami Bush in Detroit. Yes, he’s very diverse geographically.
Coupled with that 80-catch waterline, here’s another reason for pass-catching optimism:
“Our plan for him is a little bit different than that, maybe going back to a little more the way he was used with the New Orleans Saints,” Schwartz. “We think he can have a greater impact on the game when we give him the ball on his terms, on our terms, rather than running the ball into hard 8 boxes.”
That’s Schwartz last month, shortly after Bush was signed.
Cool, and here’s the reason why even if Bush is a little more Saint-like, he’ll still get his share of carries: 3.7.
That number is Leshoure’s average yards per carry, a number which defines plodding, and getting only what’s blocked. Leshoure is ideal in a goal-line and short-yardage role, but he doesn’t have anything near Bush’s ability to create missed tackles.
Bush’s value will climb rapidly if he can be that hybrid back, especially in PPR leagues. As C.D. Carter noted yesterday, all Lions running backs caught a combined 86 passes last year, showing potential for a high volume of targets for the position. There’s also the case of Jahvid Best from two years ago. In 2011 he had 27 catches over just six games before his season ended early, putting him on pace for 72.
An 80-catch season would have led the league in 2012 (Sproles had 75). In fact, it would have led the league during three of the past four seasons. Even falling just short of that (let’s say 70 catches) still makes Bush easily an RB1 in PPR leagues, and he should come off the draft board in Sproles territory.