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Darnell Mooney: 2022 Breakout Candidate for Fantasy Football

Darnell Mooney - fantasy football rankings news NFL DFS lineup picks

Here at RotoBaller, we are usually spending much of the offseason trying to help readers and subscribers in our community identify potential breakout players for the upcoming season.

As seen by Stefon Diggs' epic season in 2020 and Cooper Kupp's record-setter in 2021, several wide receivers are always primed for a breakout every year. The question for 2022 is who will it be?

One player who has been generating lots of buzz this offseason is Chicago Bears wide receiver, Darnell Mooney. With Allen Robinson recently departing via free agency for the Los Angeles Rams, Mooney appears ready to be the top pass catcher in the Bears' offense. Let's take a look at the player and his fantasy outlook for the 2022 season.

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Darnell Mooney Introduction

Drafted by the Bears in the fifth round (173rd overall) in the 2020 NFL Draft, Mooney saw the field right away and set the Bears franchise record with the most receptions by a rookie with 61. In 2021, Mooney had 81 receptions for 1,055 yards and four touchdowns while frequently having Andy Dalton and Justin Fields rotated in and out during the season. Mooney and Fields appear to have chemistry and the two have shown some flashes in the short time they have played together.

Mooney has 94th percentile speed with a 4.38 forty-yard dash time. He is an explosive player with the ability to take the top off of a defense. Mooney doesn't have the prototypical size of a number one "X receiver" and measures at about 5'10" and 176 lbs. Here is how he has performed so far in his NFL career on the stat sheet:

Year Age Team Games Targets Rec Yds YPC TD 1D Long
2020 23 CHI 16 98 61 631 10.3 4 33 53
2021 24 CHI 17 140 81 1055 13.0 4 49 64

As we can see, Mooney has seen more than his fair share of targets in just two seasons in the NFL, which is an encouraging sign going forward.

 

Darnell Mooney 2021 Season Review

Despite playing in a lackluster offense that finished 27th in total points per game, 30th in total passing yards, and 24th in total offensive yards, Mooney had some impressive Next Gen stats last season while being No. 11 in the league in targets (140 total), 13th in Air Yards, ninth in unrealized Air Yards and finished as the WR24 in half PPR.

Mooney is a versatile player with the ability to line up in the slot and on the outside. According to Robert Schmitz of Windy City Gridiron: a Bears-themed podcast, Mooney is a "Jack-of-All-Trades" type of wideout who is in a similar mold as Tyler Lockett. "Lockett, like Mooney, is a dangerous all-tool receiver that's strongest when running intermediate routes but can also attack with YAC, separate on 3rd down, and stretch the field vertically."

 

Darnell Mooney 2022 Fantasy Outlook

With Allen Robinson now with the Rams, Mooney is the lead dog in the offense along with tight end Cole Kmet. The Bears signed Byron Pringle this offseason and drafted Velus Jones Jr. in the third round of the 2022 NFL Draft (pick 71) to round out their room of pass catchers. Neither of these players should compete with Mooney in terms of overall targets, but the question is how will he perform now that he will have the attention of the defense as well as drawing the top opposing cornerback.

Former Head Coach Matt Nagy is gone, along with General Manager Ryan Pace (who drafted Justin Fields and Mooney) and there is a new era in Chicago. Many of the players had grown tired of Nagy's often brash personality during his time there and it appeared evident to many that he had lost the locker room. The Bears also had an inconsistent offense during Nagy's four years there. The Bears' offense was nothing short of dysfunctional as Nagy seemed reluctant to turn the reigns of the offense over to Justin Fields. Even when he did play Nagy didn't let him do too much and the offense lacked creativity and imagination.

Indianapolis Colts Defensive Coordinator Matt Ebeflus now takes over as the Head Coach with Ryan Poles stepping in to be the new GM. Being that the Bears didn't bring in any major wide receiver additions in free agency or the NFL Draft, does that mean they are expecting Mooney to take a big leap in Year Three?

 

Darnell Mooney Fantasy Football Predictions

It might be a little pretentious to expect a top-12 finish from Darnell Mooney in 2022, but it is within the range of possibilities. It's important to note that the deck has mostly been stacked against wide receivers in the NFL of late who aren't drafted in the first three rounds of the NFL Draft. Stefon Diggs and Tyreek Hill have mostly been the lone exception to that rule and the only reason Hill slipped on draft day was from disciplinary issues.

Right now, Mooney is being drafted between WR25 and WR30 depending on the format. While Mooney has shown some flashes and has blazing speed along with some game-breaking ability, his ceiling likely hinges on the progress of Justin Fields in Year Two. Mooney isn't the type of wide receiver with a 6-3 frame who strikes fear into the heart of opposing defenses and is usually open even when covered.

The Las Vegas sportsbooks only have the Bears at Over/Under 6.5 projected wins for the 2022 season. While Mooney is undoubtedly the WR1 on the Bears, more than likely he would only be the WR2 on a Super Bowl-caliber team. There are plenty of reasons to be optimistic about Mooney's future and he is a relatively cheap stack in best-ball formats with Justin Fields.

Going forward, Mooney is best viewed as a WR2 with upside in just about all formats.



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