Count me among the legion of fantasy owners and analysts who thoroughly underestimated Bush’s ability to attain yardage as a feature back, and to exhibit his durability while doing so. That perception was based upon the results of his five years as a Saint, when he failed to reach 600 yards rushing in any of those seasons, never replicated the success that he achieved in receiving as a rookie, and was sidelined for a whopping 20 contests due to injury. However, the assessment of Bush was altered significantly during his tenure with Miami. He displayed great proficiency while handling an extensive workload, as he amassed 2,072 yards and 12 TDs on 443 carries in two years as a Dolphin. That included the career high 227 carries that he was allotted just last season. He performed effectively, bolting for 2,072 yards and 12 TDs. He also averaged 4.65 YPC during that span, and remained in the lineup for 31 of 32 potential contests.
That made him an enticing option in free agency for a Detroit franchise that clearly needed to invigorate its rushing attack, which ranked just 23rd in 2012. Plus, the team desperately required another dynamic weapon for Matthew Stafford to locate within their passing attack. The Lions will now take full advantage of their opportunity to blend Bush into the offensive equation, and he should provide an infusion of explosiveness that was absent, beyond Stafford’s success when flinging passes to Calvin Johnson. Bush’s presence will compel opposing defenses to form a deeper level of respect for Detroit’s running game then Mikel Leshoure was able to inspire last season. Leshoure did rebound admirably, after missing the entire 2011 season with a ruptured Achilles tendon, by leading the Lions in rushing with 798 yards, and pacing the team with nine TDs on the ground. But his YPC was an uninspiring 3.7, as he continued to battle troublesome injuries throughout the year. Joique Bell supplied 414 yards on 82 attempts, but made his most critical contributions as a receiver. The moderate ceiling that Leshoure and Bell could deliver in their efforts to amass rushing yards, provided Detroit’s decision makers with sufficient incentive to obtain Bush. His vastly superior potential to produce sizable yardage will help him ascend beyond both Leshoure and Bell on the depth chart, and capture the highest percentage of touches among the team’s stable of backfield options. As a result, he will have a legitimate opportunity to become Detroit’s first 1,000 yard-rusher since Kevin Jones in 2004.
But of course, Bush was also acquired to supply Stafford will another dynamic target, which he sorely lacked in 2012. Stafford launched a league high 727 passes last season, although 205 of them were intended for the peerless Johnson. The Lions suffered through a dearth of options beyond Megatron, particularly after the promising Ryan Broyles suffered a torn ACL on December 2. Stafford’s desperate need for secondary targets did elevate Bell into fantasy relevance, as the third-year back was targeted 68 times, and amassed 52 catches. It was the team’s fourth best reception total. And that level of production could propel Bell toward capturing more touches than Leshoure, whose involvement in Detroit’s 2012 aerial attack was modest – just 34 catches for 214 yards. Regardless, the distribution of opportunities for Bell and Leshoure remains ambiguous, while Bush’s big play capabilities should provide an effective tonic for what had been an area of great deficiency.
Since entering the league in 2006, Bush has amassed 372 catches, which surpassed the totals of all other backs. 78 of those receptions were generated in 2011-2012, but he is likely to surpass that total in his first year as a Lion. Because Detroit’s offensive approach will be far more reliant upon perpetuating an aerial assault than was the case in Miami. Bush’s involvement should be more comparable to his rookie season, when he established a career best 88 receptions. Not only should he approach that number again this season, but he could easily surpass it. In fact, it is highly plausible that his total will surpass all other backs in that category. That accentuates his appeal for anyone who will be involved in PPR leagues.
15 RBs are currently being selected before Bush, and his ADP of 33 places him securely in Round 3. While I do have some concern about an offensive line that will contain three new starters, it is difficult to quarrel with that positioning in standard leagues. However, I believe that he should be selected at least 10 slots earlier in PPR leagues, as an ADP of 22 appears more reasonable in those scenarios. Particularly since he will be employed heavily as a dynamic weapon on the ground, while stockpiling receptions as a backfield target for Stafford. As always, remember the usual caveats of maintaining flexibility based upon the flow of your particular draft, maintaining a value oriented strategy, and adhering to your specific needs at that time.