Don’t Look Now, But Darnell Mooney is on the Cusp of WR1 Status
All offseason, we (Bears fans) have spent plenty of time groveling about Chicago’s uninspiring receiver options for the 2022 NFL season. And, of course, the new-look front office didn’t help matters by shying away from seemingly all significant upgrades via free agency, the trade market, and the draft.
And yet, in the eyes of Pro Football Focus, one Bears player already appears to be on the brink of making that leap into the WR1 conversation.
Darnell Mooney, come on down!
PFF’s Anthony Treash puts 32 NFL receivers in rankings and tiers ahead as part of the ramp up previewing the 2022 season. And while it takes a bit before Treash gets to Mooney, who ranks 32nd on this particular list, the description is worth the wait:
Between his deep speed, route running and after-the-catch ability, he can win in a variety of ways. Last year, Mooney tied for sixth in total receptions over 15 yards downfield (20), finished sixth in separation rate against single coverage and was one of 22 wide receivers with double-digit broken tackles after the catch (10).
Training camp won’t kick off until July, preseason games won’t take place until August, and regular season games aren’t kicking off until September. And when they do, I hope Mooney lives up to the expectations Treash leaves in his post. Because if he can do that, I think we’ll see Justin Fields hit another level.To that end, it is worth underscoring that Treash believes there is reason to think the arrow will continue to point up for Mooney as he gains comfort and experience with Fields. He even goes as far as to suggest the Mooney-Fields tandem could grow into one of the best young tag teams in the NFL.
And why not? The makings of something special are right here in front of us:
Earlier in the offseason, we made a case for Mooney being a No. 1 receiver. And now, we once again find ourselves wondering why couldn’t Mooney take the leap into WR1 status.
Treash makes some solid observations. So much so, that while I believe the Bears still could add to that position, I’m growing more comfortable with the idea of Mooney being an offense-leading WR1. To be clear, he’ll still need to prove it with his production on the field. Mooney needs to play at a high level with more consistency. He’ll need to tidy up some route-running, continue to stay engaged, and ensure his concentration levels are in peak condition to clean up any issues with drops. But all of this is doable.