The Chicago Bears got one of the biggest steals of the 2020 NFL Draft when they selected Darnell Mooney, a wide receiver from Tulane, with the 173rd overall pick. Since that draft pick, Mooney has ingratiated himself into the hearts of Bears fans everywhere bursting onto the scene in impressive fashion.
Mooney’s rookie campaign was strong, but his numbers may have been hindered by the quarterback situation in Chicago. Despite his best route running on several occasions, it seemed as if Bears quarterbacks always failed to get him the ball down the field. This left Bears fans clamoring for a QB that would bring the best out of their young receiver.
Free Darnell Mooney pic.twitter.com/HZIaXwiUYm— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) October 28, 2020
Enter, Justin Fields.
Fields and Mooney had an instant connection in 2021. Even with veteran former Pro-Bowler Allen Robinson in the picture, Mooney managed to become Fields’ favorite target, amassing far more targets (140) than Robinson (66), and posting his first 1,000 yard season.
In what was a rather frustrating season on all other accounts, it become clear that the Mooney/Fields connection was a special one.
added some kanye to the bears latest tweet.— Dave (@runbackdave) October 5, 2021
this mooney/fields connection 🍿pic.twitter.com/GkTeM3PYZU
Despite Mooney being the 25th wide receiver off the board in 2020, his 2021 season made him one of just five receivers from the 2020 draft to post over 1,000 yards in a season. That puts him in the same company as top draft choices CeeDee Lamb (DAL), Justin Jefferson (MIN), Michael Pittman Jr (IND), and Tee Higgins (CIN).
Looking ahead, it’s reasonable to suspect Mooney will continue to improve, even if the Bears failed to bring in an established veteran wide receiver this offseason to pair alongside him. And just in case you think you’re the only one expecting Mooney to blow up in 2022…don’t. Recent quotes from national analysts, Bears quarterback Justin fields, and Darnell Mooney himself would back up that expectation.
A recent article from Sports Illustrated titled “100 Bold Predictions for the 2022 NFL Season” includes a prediction from Conor Orr about the Bears wide out:
“23. Darnell Mooney will finish the season as a household name
I recognize the hypocrisy of this statement given how harsh I’ve been on the Bears and how they’re building around Justin Fields. But they can still put together a struggling offense and have one capable wide receiver who puts up monstrous numbers.”
This may be the most positive way of spinning the Chicago Bears offseason moves. The lack of stars in the down field for the Bears give Justin Fields even more reason to throw the ball Mooney’s way. The Bears roster turnover will create an even higher volume of targets than last season, and potentially require Mooney to play with double-teams.
If there’s more potential to unlock, you are going to see it on full display in 2022. That’s something Mooney has no doubt about. In a recent interview with “The Gadsden Times”, the local newspaper of his hometown, Mooney discussed the possibility of taking on double-teams and his motivation to achieve more.
“I’m ready for whatever anybody brings to me. I’m ready for any task, any type of defense that we’re seeing, whatever it is, anyway, I can help the team,” said Mooney. “You know, if I get double teamed, I’ll be a decoy for the team so everybody else can be open. I mean, I’m good with that. Anyway I can help win.”
“I’m not satisfied yet. I have a lot more in the tank that has been hidden.”
– darnell mooney on his nfl success
If the Bears were going to gamble on a young receiver to pair with Justin Fields, Mooney is a real good option. The two have demonstrated fantastic chemistry on the field, and have been stayed motivated to growing in their relationship off the field. According to Fields, they have trained, and even stayed together throughout much of the off season.
This is a huge season for Mooney and the trajectory of his career. There’s No doubt anymore that he has what it takes to be a successful NFL wide receiver, but Ryan Poles and the bears will be looking on this fall to see if Mooney has what it takes to be the bonified number one option he aspires to be.
His quarterback and his fans in Chicago already know what he can do. Now it’s time to let everyone else see it too.
Image via Jon Durr – USA TODAY Sports