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First Down: The push for Reggie Bush, MJD reboots and buying Bell

Brad Evans
Roto Arcade

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Reeling in passes could be a common occurrence for Bush in Detroit. (USAT)

In locker-rooms, on plasma screens or behind podiums, NFL head coaches typically spew one of three different types of propaganda when discussing expectations for newly acquired players – believable, outlandish and whatever the heck flies out of Jim Schwartz’s mouth.

Over the years, Schwartz has rewarded the football community with several golden nuggets, his comparison of Jahvid Best video clips to “porn” being the best. Well, it appears the Old Hyperbolator is at it again. Last week, he divulged to Lions fans running back Reggie Bush is poised for an enormous season. In Schwartz’s fantastic words:

"Last year, when [Bush] played for the Miami Dolphins, he was a running back," Schwartz said Tuesday at a Town Hall Meeting for season ticketholders at Ford Field. "He didn’t have very many catches. He had about 20 catches last year. This is a guy who can potentially catch 60-to-70-to-80 balls, depending on how you use him..."

"You want to put players in the best position for them to show what they can do, the best position to effect the game, the best position to be able to make an impact on the game and help win the game and that’s what we plan to do with Reggie...We have a very specific role in mind for him.”

Schwartz’s above declaration may seem like a pull-a-number-of-your-butt projection, but it’s not at all unrealistic. The Lions offense is fast, explosive and high-octane, a pass-centric scheme designed to tax secondaries via constant bombardment. Over the past two seasons, Matthew Stafford chucked 43.4 passes per game, nearly two more tosses per game than next-in-line Drew Brees. With undeniably the game’s finest receiver, Calvin Johnson, and additional above average weapons on roster (e.g. Brandon Pettigrew, Ryan Broyles, Nate Burleson and Joique Bell), it’s no wonder why Detroit is stubborn in its skyward ways. Bush’s arrival only solidifies the club’s air-prolific standing.

The former No. 2 overall pick was underutilized by Joe Philbin last year on South Beach. Overall, he averaged just 2.1 receptions per game, a career low. Because of his marked versatility, Schwartz and Lions offensive coordinator Scott Linehan will surely get creative with the Swiss Army Knife. It would seem likely the flexible weapon will not only haul in several catches on traditional screens and flares, but also as a receiver out wide or in the slot. A finely-skilled route runner who is fleet-footed and shifty in the open-field, he really is the Percy Harvin of running backs.

Estimating a Larry Centers-like year for Reggie isn’t irresponsible optimism. Bell and Mikel Leshoure grabbed a combined 86 passes for the Lions last year. Recall Bush caught 88 passes his rookie year in New Orleans (2006) and followed up with 73 catches in just 12 games the season after. And don’t contend he’s a fragile commodity who shouldn’t be trusted. Even with an increased workload he missed only one game in two years with Miami. Fewer between-the-tackle runs only enhances his reliability.

Considering his skill set, Detroit’s willingness to throw and the Lions’ defensive inadequacies, a top-12 campaign in PPR leagues is completely fathomable, provided he can cross the chalk at least six times. Leshoure will likely dominate goal-line touches. Still, Bush, like his replacement in New Orleans Darren Sproles, will be a highly coveted RB because of his receiving ability. Roughly 1,200-1,300 total yards, 5-7 TDs and 75 receptions are entirely possible. When draft season commences, pick him with the utmost confidence as a RB2 in all leagues (29.4 ADP, RB18).

In due time, investors will gush over Bush.

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Everyone's favorite short stack will again plow through defenders soon. (USAT)

• After an injury-marred 2012, Maurice Jones-Drew is confident he'll return to action at full speed in short order. The three-time Pro Bowler suffered a devastating Lisfranc fracture in his left foot, a setback that limited the normally durable back to just six games last year. Still, it appears he'll be at 100-percent by the time Jaguars training camp opens in late July. From NFL.com:

"I'll be back at full speed by probably the end of May, beginning of June, and I just can't wait to get back out there and play. I only had six weeks of football last year, so it's just going to be exciting to get back and be with my teammates."

Questions continue to loom about the state of Jacksonville's offense, particularly who will man the controls once the regular season gets underway. Chernobyl-level disaster Blaine Gabbert and Chad Henne are set to duke it out, but the Jags, who possess the second overall pick in this month's draft, are rumored to be in the mix for Geno Smith's services. With Justin Blackmon and Cecil Shorts as primary downfield targets, the cupboard is far from bare in North Florida. However, the offensive line, historically the club's strength, underperformed in run-blocking a year ago. For MJD to regain his status as an elite fantasy option, it's imperative the QB position and mountain movers up front execute semi-competently, at the very least.

New Jags head honcho, Gus Bradley, is a strong advocate for ball control, meaning he should pound the pigskin with MJD this fall. If JAX's two biggest holes are addressed, the Oompah Loompah will most certainly deliver a sweet statistical surprise. Assuming his recovery continues smoothly, it's hard imagine he finishes outside the position's top-10, making him a bargain buy in the latter half of Round 2 (19.5 ADP, RB14). In my initial RB ranks Jones-Drew checks in at No.7, sandwiched between C.J. Spiller and Ray Rice.

• For those that didn't watch much Big Ten football last fall, Le'Veon Bell is going to open your eyes. Many publications are split on how successful the Michigan State standout will be at the next level, but don't side with the skeptics. The bruising rusher won't win many 100-yard dashes (4.60 40-yard), but speed, particularly at the RB position, is greatly overrated in the NFL. Some of the league's most consistent producers (e.g. Arian Foster) aren't burners. Power, cutting ability, versatility and endurance are a rusher's most important attributes. Bell owns all four. He also excels in pass protection.

Scouts have criticized his vision and lateral agility, and his oversized frame (6-foot-1, 230 pounds) could make him vulnerable to hard hits, but, make no mistake, he's a throwback in a timeshare age, a younger version of Steven Jackson. Last season with the Spartans, he toted the rock 30-plus times in seven of 13 games, averaging 4.7 yards per carry overall. Can you say Clydesdale?

Most NFL draft prognosticators have his name falling off the board sometime in Round 2. Dallas, St. Louis, New York (Jets) and, most intriguingly, Green Bay are all potential suitors. Naturally, landing spot means everything for the rookie's immediate value, but in the right situation he could rapidly develop into a trustworthy RB2. Next to Giovani Bernard, he might be the cream of this year's RB crop, especially with Eddie Lacy's stock plummeting.

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