Numbers Say Reggie Bush is Worth the High Risk

The risk factors are there, but numberFire's projections see Bush as a potential breakout star.

Fine, Danny Amendola's nice. And OK, I'd bring Steven Jackson home to meet the family. And maybe Wes Welker will provide everything I need. But man, the majority of players that switched teams this offseason are just so... uninspiring. Yawn-inducing. Plain old Tim Duncan-brand boring.

But then we have Reggie Bush. Taylor Swift tried to warn me, but I just wouldn't listen: I knew he was trouble when he walked in. Those 172 rush yards in Week 2 against Oakland last year made me swoon; topping 65 rush yards in only two games the rest of the season made me break down and cry.

Still, I'm like the rest who just can't seem to get enough. Over the past week, Bush has been averaging right around the 23rd overall selection in most fantasy draft. We don't disagree; he's No. 27 on our overall Big Board. He's solid end-of-second to mid-third-round value all around.

Can you trust him? It's a definite... maybe. According to numberFire's risk profiles, three starting backs are deemed a "high" risk: Bush, Darren McFadden, and Maurice Jones-Drew. But while numberFire ranks the other two much lower than their current average draft position, we think Bush is worth the risk. And the answer why lies in his high efficiency through his Net Expected Points.

Better than Expected Rushing

Reggie Bush is the dictionary definition of a high-risk back for two reasons: his injury risk and his inexperience as a feature back. Of course Bush can catch the ball out of the backfield, but can he run enough to be something other than Darren Sproles with a few more opportunities?

There isn't much past precedent to try and give a halfway reasonable answer. New Orleans handled him more carefully than they handled their Super Bowl electric bill, never giving Bush more than 157 carries in five Saints seasons. While he has received a higher load in Miami, averaging 223 rushes over the past two seasons, that's not a large body of evidence to prove he can be the feature back in Detroit. Mikel LeShoure's presence doesn't help matters either.

But there is that one bright side: when he has had opportunities, he's made the most of them. Our beloved Net Expected Points (NEP) metric, which measures how many expected points above or below the league-average play that a player has gained for his team, actually says Bush was only slightly below league-average efficiency last season despite his low overall rushing totals.

In his 227 rushing attempts, Bush only lost 0.04 expected points per rush for the Dolphins last year. Since rushing is a much less efficient way of moving the ball than passing overall, that's not half bad. Among the 22 backs with at least 200 attempts last season, Bush ranked No. 15 overall per rush, ahead of Steven Jackson, Trent Richardson, and Darren McFadden. 2011 was even better: his 0.01 NEP per rush finished up in fourth of all backs with at least 200 rushing attempts. In the two seasons he has gotten the most chances, he's been highly efficient running the ball.

What That Means

I wouldn't exactly be betting all of Detroit's non-existent money on Reggie Bush receiving an uptick in carries; the Lions passed the ball on 65.4 percent of their offensive plays last year, easily the highest proportion in the league. Our projections see Bush stagnant at 210 carries, right around his average with Miami.

Don't frown though, because those carries should give him all the opportunity he needs. With that high rushing efficiency in the two seasons with the highest sample size, even holding fewer projected carries shouldn't stop Bush. Neither should a projected receptions mark that sits right around average.

Current Projected 2013 Stats

Rush Att.Rush YardsRush TDsReceptionsRec. YardsRec. TDsFP

I see two main takeaways from his projections. First, because of his higher projected efficiency and ability to get into the endzone in a variety of ways, Bush is higher on our RB rankings than multiple other backs that have more projected carries, including Frank Gore, MJD, McFadden, and Ryan Mathews. I wouldn't worry about his role in the Detroit offense too much.

Second, the confidence interval for his overall fantasy points in a standard league (the range of scores he's likely to fall in if healthy) ranges from 145.17 FP to 203.69 FP. Sure, he has a lower floor because of his risk, but his 203.69 point ceiling places him with the 13th highest potential fantasy score among running backs. Steven Jackson and DeMarco Murray are more steady, but they don't have the potential to break out like Bush does.

Don't be scared off by Reggie Bush's high risk rating. If anything, given that he'll likely be the second running back on your team, it's more of a blessing than a curse. He possesses the ability to be a high point producer for your team, and given his recent play, there's a good indication that he will continue to be efficient. And if you're staring at him in the late second or early third round, I wouldn't be afraid to pull the trigger.