With the first pick in the 2006 NFL Draft, the Houston Texans had narrowed it down to two choices. They were either going to select North Carolina State defensive end Mario Williams or USC running back Reggie Bush.
Both were thought of as top-notch prospects at the time, but Bush seemed to have the advantage given that he was coming off a 2005 season at USC that ended with him winning the Heisman Trophy.
In a bit of a surprise, Houston opted to go with Williams and Bush went to the New Orleans Saints with the very next pick. At the time, not many thought the Texans had made the correct decision.
Fast-forward 11 years later to 2017 and everyone’s opinion of Houston selecting Williams has changed dramatically. That will happen when a player gets voted to four Pro Bowls and accumulates just under 100 sacks during his career like Williams has.
Despite draft analysts predicting that Bush would turn into the best running back since Jim Brown, he has never seemed to reach his full potential during his time in the NFL. Now 32 years old and coming off a season with the Buffalo Bills that ended with him having a season total of -3 rushing yards, Bush is struggling to find a team to play for in 2017.
But is it possible that the running back’s abilities were too advanced for NFL offenses to work with when he came out of college?
During his senior season at USC in 2005, Bush averaged 18 touches per game on offense and it lead to him gaining 2,218 total yards from scrimmage (9.3 yards per touch) and scoring 18 touchdowns.
In the NFL, the running back has only averaged 18 or more touches per game during a season twice.
But one of those two years (2013 with the Detroit Lions) happened to arguably be Bush’s best season of his 11-year career in the league. That season, the running back averaged 5.5 yards per touch, ran for over 1,000 yards, and scored seven touchdowns.
Bush has always been known as a back who was capable of a big play any time the ball was in his hands. But when he entered the NFL, most rushing offenses were not set up to feature a running back with his unique skill set.
When he was drafted in 2006, the NFL was full of a ton of big bruising rushers like Shaun Alexander, Steven Jackson, Jamal Lewis, and Edgerrin James. Running backs got a lot more carries back then also, but that had a lot to do with how the offenses were set up during that time period.
Adrian Peterson is quite possibly the last back that will ever have an offense built around his run-first skill set and he is just about ready to retire.
In the current state of the league, where 14 running backs still averaged at least 18 touches per game in 2016, Bush might have had more success if he were 21 years old again and was drafted in 2017.
Running backs of today have to be versatile as both a rusher and a pass catcher, something that Bush excelled at during his time at USC. What players like Le’Veon Bell, Melvin Gordon, Lamar Miller, and LeSean McCoy are doing today is what most draft analysts envisioned for Bush when he entered the league in 2006.
However, Bush was never able to find an offense that utilized his best abilities. And unfortunately, he never will.