Identifying breakouts and hitching yourself to them is imperative to creating sustained fantasy success. Previously, we examined Gabriel Davis of the Buffalo Bills in a piece that can be read here Breakout Bound? Gabriel Davis. In this article, we’ll take a look at Chicago Bears’ exciting sophomore receiver Darnell Mooney and ask ourselves the question, is Darnell Mooney breakout bound?
Mooney was forgotten in the loaded 2020 draft class despite a strong career at run-heavy Tulane, where he broke out as a freshman. He would eventually be selected 173rd overall (5/28) by the Bears. Entering the draft, the primary concerns around Mooney were size and strength related. By the conclusion of his impressive rookie season, those were largely put to bed.
Mooney appeared in all 16 games as a rookie and made an impact on the field as early as Week 1. Even more encouraging, he had logged at least two receptions in each contest and his role grew steadily as the year went on. Below are his 2020 receiving totals.
His 98 targets leap off the page and were good for 34th overall among wide receivers in the NFL last season. Additionally, Mooney’s 4.38 speed helped him garner the 11th most deep targets in the NFL last season with 23. Next season, there are several catalysts that could cause Mooney’s stock and production to soar.
The largest potential catalyst for Mooney as he enters his sophomore season is Allen Robinson’s impending free agency. If Robinson departs this offseason, Mooney will be the early favorite for WR 1 duties in Chicago. Whether or not you believe in Mooney, it’s undeniable that his value and receiving production would drastically increase in that role. Should Robinson return, Mooney will still have multiple avenues to weekly fantasy consideration as the number two option.
Next, it’s universally known that the Bears are in the market for a new quarterback. Regardless of who’s under center in Chicago next fall, it’s all but certain it’ll be an upgrade from the Mitchell Trubisky/Nick Foles tandem they trotted out in 2020. An upgrade at the position most closely linked to fantasy output can only be viewed as a positive for Mooney. Additionally, the Bears attempted the 5th most passes as a percentage of offensive plays last season. With a more valuable passer at the helm, each pass attempt will offer a higher theoretical value.
Finally, it should be expected that Mooney takes another step forward in his development. The fact he was able to earn an important role in his rookie year with a pandemic-laden offseason is a testament to how the Bears’ coaching staff views him. His increased playing time and usage as the season progressed only supports this notion further.
With the uncertainty surrounding the Bears this offseason, Mooney’s range of outcomes for 2021 remain wide. In terms of floor, Mooney’s WR 51 overall finish last season would be a reasonable estimate. However, it’s trying to define Mooney’s upside that presents the greatest challenge. While his situation may end up a promising one, it’s unreasonable to expect a WR 2 season from him. Instead, a strong WR 4 season with a place in the weekly fantasy conversation appears much more probable. As it stands currently, Mooney’s a dynasty asset with very favorable upside vs downside risk.
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