New Lions running back catches a pass against the New England Patriots on December 30, 2012
On Wednesday afternoon, ESPN and other sources have reported that free agent Reggie Bush agreed to a four-year deal with the Detroit Lions despite rumors that he still planned to visit the Arizona Cardinals and speak with both the Washington Redskins and the Cincinatti Bengals.
Bush has spent the past two seasons in Miami where he has proven to be both durable, appearing in 31-of-32 games over that span, and also capable of handling a featured back role. Rest assured, the Lions were able to coax Bush so swiftly because it was made clear that he will be the featured back for this offense. This is a role that the Lions have found hard to fill since losing Jahvid Best to concussions and trying to make due with a rotation of Mikel Leshoure, Kevin Smith and Joique Bell last season.
In 2012, the Lions ran the ball from the red zone 39 percent of the time, a pretty significant number for a team that likes to spread defenses out when between the 20s. Despite passing more than any other team in the league, Detroit still scored 17 rushing touchdowns, 16 of which were from the red zone.
They are a pass first team, a system into which Bush fits well, but in the red zone head coach Jim Schwartz and offensive coordinator Scott Linehan lean towards more conservative play calling, leading towards many short-distance scoring attempts.
Mikel Leshoure, whose YPC was under four in nine of the 14 games he played in, was able to punch it into the end zone nine times, including eight times in the last nine games of the season.
Realistically, Kevin Smith has become an afterthought in Detroit, making Leshoure the main competitor for Bush's touches. In 2012, Bush carried the ball just 12 more times than Leshoure, but out-gained him by 188 yards on the ground. This big difference in production is coming during a season in which Detroit's offensive line ranked much higher than Miami's according to Pro Football Focus, Rotoworld's Evan Silva and Football Outsiders' Statistics.
Given his ability as a pass-catcher, Reggie Bush will have even more of an opportunity to thrive in The Motor City.
The Lions are the most pass-happy team in the league. Last season, they attempted 740 passes, which was the most in the NFL and 69 attempts more than the team with the second-most attempted passes (New Orleans). Of those 740 attempts, Detroit targeted a running back on 143 throws, completing 105 of them for 821 yards. That's some heavy lifting for a passing offense that should feature Bush on most downs with Joique Bell providing the regular change of pace.
In both PPR and non-PPR formats, Reggie Bush should be climbing up draft boards. From 2006-2008, Bush either gained 1,000 scrimmage yards or was very well on pace to. Similarly, in both of his years with the Dolphins, Bush gained well over 1,000 yards from scrimmage, scoring 15 touchdowns over two seasons.
Now in a system best suited for outside runs with quick and elusive backs, Bush should be given plenty of fantasy goodness. Not only will he be able to do more damage than Leshoure with the carries he's given, he will also become an integral part of the passing game, like Joique Bell was for the Lions in 2012. If the Lions continue to run the ball in the red zone as frequently as last year, Bush could also splash paydirt upwards of 9-10 times.
Consider the difference in running lanes that Bush should encounter moving from a team whose spread-the-field receiver threat was Brian Hartline to a team with Calvin Johnson, Nate Burleson and Brandon Pettigrew opening up the box.
In PPR formats, obviously Bush is even more valuable. Bush will be utilized out of the back field often and you can expect numbers that come close to Joique Bell's 2012 receiving stats combined with Leshoure's rushing stats.
Obviously, Bush is not going to be a top-ten RB1 in standard or PPR formats. Keep in mind he is still undersized and as a result may concede true goal-line carries to someone bigger like Mikel Leshoure.
Where Bush may have been being drafted around rounds six or seven as a low-end RB2 or possibly even RB3, with a featured role in Detroit I'm taking Bush as early as round five in standard formats and possibly even round four in PPR formats. Consider him a high-end RB2, fringing upon RB1 status in PPR leagues and a solid RB2 in standard leagues, depending on how we see the workload and red zone carries divided.