My excitement for Reggie Bush this year has maybe reached an unhealthy level. After being signed by the Lions, this offseason he’s started the process of being inserted into an offense which will cater to his specific skillset, and allow Bush to do more Bush-like things instead of being restricted as a more conventional runner.
Bush needs to be used in space, and be given the ball in space. That leads to another need: to be a receiver, and preferably much more often than he was over the past two seasons in Miami. Despite being healthy (he missed only one game as a Dolphin), Bush was held to less than 300 receiving yards twice, a mark he sunk below only once in New Orleans during the 2010 season when he appeared in just eight games.
Repeatedly this offseason we’ve heard that Bush will return to being the shifty open-space guy we saw in his rookie and sophomore seasons, when he recorded a combined 1,159 receiving yards on 161 catches and 219 targets. And there’s a direct correlation between the words said by important Detroit Lions people about Bush’s passing game usage, and the level of collective giddiness we’re all feeling about his 2013 fantasy ceiling. Oh and also, the rise in his ADP is likely connected to that chatter too.
The latest comes from Lions offensive coordinator Scott Linehan, who said this to Len Pasquatelli yesterday:
“He catches the ball so effortlessly. And he’s a factor up the field, not just in the flat, or on screen or swing passes.”
Possible translation: we’ll use him everywhere. Absolutely everywhere, and he’ll end the season with somewhere in the neighborhood of 300 touches, at minimum.
Such usage could be similar to how the Patriots are set to utilize Shane Vereen when he’s trotted out wide to be Aaron Hernandez, just less murder-y. Bush’s versatility this year could also mirror how Kansas City will use Jamaal Charles after the Chiefs’ staff spent the spring discussing him as the backfield answer to Randall Cobb. He can line up in multiple positions, and excel from anywhere in the proper situation. Let’s explore the peak of Bush’s receiving production then after the latest praise from Linehan, and long after head coach Jim Schwartz said his new running back could top out at 80 catches.
Alright, so he reaches that mark, which means Bush would flirt with establishing a new career high in receptions. His previous high was 88 catches for 742 yards during his rookie season, a year in which he had five receptions for 20 yards or more.
History tells us then that projecting about 700 yards if Bush is able to reach the high end of Schwartz’s magic reception range isn’t something that’s crazy at all. We can also look back on history and see that despite his frequent injuries, Bush has scored at least two receiving touchdowns in five of his seven seasons.
The simple fantasy math then looks like this: in standard scoring leagues, Bush could easily have an 82-point season purely on his receiving production, especially in an offense that treated running the ball as an obligation last year, and not as something that’s really in the rules of football. Matthew Stafford attempted 740 passes in 2012, which easily trumped Drew Brees in second with 671.
Then with more usage out of the backfield too, projecting at least 1,000 rushing yards for Bush isn’t outlandish, and it even feels a little conservative. Bush came just 14 yards shy of that mark last year in Miami despite receiving only 227 carries, and he had his first 1,000 yard season in 2011 with even fewer carries (216).
In each of the past two seasons when he had a greater role in Miami, Bush also scored at least rushing six touchdowns. That’s a rushing touchdown roughly once every 36 carries, a fine scoring pace for a running back in a platoon. Bush’s history of high-volume scoring through his home run swing plays dates back to his first years in New Orleans, when the rushing touchdown-to-carries ratio was even more exaggerated. During his rookie year Bush scored six times on just 155 carries (a TD every 25.8 carries), and in 2009 he scored five times on a mere 70 carries (a TD every 14 carries).
So with all that in mind, here’s the most optimistic (or arguably, conservative) scenario: 1,000 rushing yards + 600 receiving yards + eight total touchdowns = 208 fantasy points. That production would have put Bush even with Ray Rice in 2012, and made him one of only seven running backs to top the 200-point mark.
Stafford’s high throwing volume will surely fall, especially with Bush bringing an element of respect back to a running game which has lost all of it. But even if it falls a full 100 attempts, bush will still benefit from Stafford remaining firmly among the league’s frequent flyers. With Bush’s presence and the improved health of Nate Burleson and Ryan Broyles, and some dude named Calvin Johnson still being the lord’s gift to the craft of ball catching, the Lions are a passing team.
That’s the sort of environment created by the Saints that Bush (and now Darren Sproles) thrived in, with space continually created for a player who thrives in space, and plenty of balls directed at multiple targets.
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