Major free agent signings have been announced one after the other since the market opened on Tuesday. Wes Welker, Mike Wallace, Shonn Green and Rashard Mendenhall will all be wearing different uniforms in 2013 but the biggest move thus far from a fantasy football standpoint has been Reggie Bush signing with the Detroit Lions.
Bush made his first team visit on Tuesday and decided that he had seen enough. Detroit gave Bush the red carpet treatment, with limousines and a sales pitch from Matthew Stafford. That and a four-year, $16 million deal had Bush signing on the dotted line.
Detroit is the perfect fit for Bush from a fantasy football perspective. Bush excels in the pass attack and will be given an opportunity to share running responsibilities with power back, Mikel Leshoure.
Bush will join a dynamic Detroit offense that has ranked first in the NFL in passing play percentage over each of the past two seasons. Over that span, more than 75% of Detroit’s yards on offense have come through the air.
Detroit will capitalize on his skills as a pass catcher in ways that the Miami Dolphins were unable to do. Bush will essentially bump incumbent third-down back Joique Bell into irrelevancy. Last season, despite seeing limited action, Bell still managed to grab 17 more catches than Bush. Thanks to a superior offense, Bell was able to reel in 75.4% of his targets compared to Bush’s 67.3% catch rate with Miami.
Bush will receive those opportunities and more in his new role with Detroit. With the amount that Detroit throws the football, it’s easy to imagine Bush posting similar receiving numbers to Darren Sproles with the New Orleans Saints. To contrast the two, Bush should be on the field for roughly 65% of snaps in his feature back role compared to the 40% that Sproles played in 2012.
Joique Bell was on the field for a total of 381 offensive snaps in 2012 and was targeted 68 times. That translates a target on one out of every 5.6 of his snaps. If Bush plays 65% of Detroit’s snaps and they averaged 70.7 plays per game, then he will see 46 plays per game. If he is then thrown to at the same rate as Bell, then he should be targeted on about eight passes per game which adds up to 128 on the season.
If Bush catches 70% of those targets then he will catch 90 passes in addition to about 200 carries. Let’s be generous and give 10 of those catches to Bell who will play in blowout games or in third-down situations to spell Bush when he’s tired. That still gives Bush 80 catches which would be 5 more than Sproles caught in 2012.
While this describes a best-case scenario for Bush who has missed a handful of games due to injury over his career, he has the potential to be the most versatile back in football. If Bush reaches his career average of 4.3 yards per carry over 200 runs then he will attain 860 rushing yards. Combine that with 80 catches at 7.5 yards per reception and that adds 600 more yards.
1,460 total yards and ten touchdowns would give would give Bush 206 fantasy points in standard formats. That would have been made him the seventh highest scoring fantasy back in 2012.
Bush was able to accumulate the 14th most fantasy points at the running back position in 2012 despite only playing 55% of snaps and his inadequate usage in the Miami passing attack.
Bush has potential to become a number-one fantasy running back for the first time in his career. Stay on top of the news out of Lions camp that may hint at his role in the upcoming season. There is a slight risk involved since it is an unknown situation but Bush could reward owners with first round value. He projects as an early second round fantasy pick in 2013 drafts.