The Chicago Bears and specifically Ryan Pace drafted wide receiver Darnell Mooney with the 173rd pick overall in 2020. The fifth-rounder out of Tulane made his presence felt immediately. Mooney slid right into the thick of things on offense during the 2020 season.
That's more than other any rookie wide receiver taken that late in the draft can say. At the time, Matt Nagy and the Bears did not provide receivers that much scope in the offense, let alone give them playing time. Just ask Javon Wims or Riley Ridley.
Darnell Mooney's Career So Far
In an anemic offense with questions at quarterback and bigger questions with the scheme and play-caller, Darnell Mooney has done well.
During his rookie season, Mooney logged 61 catches on 91 targets while hauling in 631 yards and four touchdowns. Meanwhile, he played in all 16 games including starting nine of them.
Even more impressive is the fact that Mooney had a rotation of quarterbacks to work with. First, it was Mitch Trubisky. Then it was Nick Foles before the Bears went back to Trubisky.
While Matt Nagy continued struggling calling plays and having an identity on offense, Mooney did have Allen Robinson opposite him, garnering a lot of the attention.
In his second year, Mooney posted significantly better numbers. This time, Robinson did not factor much into the offense for the Chicago Bears.
Although, the Bears did have a revolving door at QB, switching between Andy Dalton and Justin Fields. Even Nick Foles got to see the field for one game. Nevertheless, Mooney's production improved from his rookie season as he caught 81 passes on 140 targets for 1,055 yards and four TDs.
In his two years, Darnell Mooney has produced 1,686 receiving yards on 142 catches and eight touchdowns, albeit in a limited role.
Mooney Disrespected? Overlooked?
There has been a lot of chatter of late about the Chicago Bears and their offensive weapons. Mostly the moves they've made or not made in support of Justin Fields.
Now, the interesting part is that most of this criticism has been coming from the national media. One name, in particular, was ESPN's, Dan Orlovsky, who went on Keyshawn, JWill & Max and totally forgot about Mooney's existence.
"His top two pass-catching threats are a second-round tight end [Cole Kmet] and a third-round wide receiver [Velus Jones Jr.] that they took".
Oh, it gets even better. Orlovsky realized his mistake and went on Twitter to double down.
Apparently, Mr. Orlovsky thinks Darnell Mooney doesn't qualify as a #1 or #2 WR in the NFL. He attributes draft position to how good a receiver will or can be.
Now, Orlovsky's logic and opinions got the brain juices flowing. He doesn't think Mooney is a #1 or even #2 WR just yet.
However, given each team's receiving corps, where exactly would Darnell Mooney fit if placed on those rosters? Is he a top-three wide receiver on any given team?
As a result, we go down the list of each team and see where Mooney would land. Note: This exercise is strictly opinion-based.
Chicago Bears: #1 WR
Detroit Lions: #2 WR
The only receiver from the Lions worth taking over Mooney is probably D.J. Chark. Amon-Ra St. Brown is only one year into the league and Jameson Williams is just a rookie.
Green Bay Packers: #1 WR
Packers fans will have you believe they'd take all of their wide receivers over Darnell Mooney. That's not the case.
Randall Cobb is 31 years old and hasn't been productive like he was earlier in his career.
As for Sammy Watkins, who are we kidding? Watkins has eclipsed 1,000 receiving yards once in his career. His best year since leaving Buffalo came in 2019 with the Chiefs.
He racked up 673 yards on 52 catches. Both happened to be his highest since 2015. When it comes to Allen Lazard and Amari Rodgers, there's not much there in substance statistically.
Newcomer, Christian Watson, is a work in progress. Darnell Mooney is the #1 WR on the Packers if he joined the roster today.
Minnesota Vikings: #3 WR
There's no doubt about it. Mooney would have a tough time beating out Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen.
Atlanta Falcons: #1 WR
Atlanta's wide receiving group consists of rookie Drake London, Auden Tate, Olamide Zaccheaus, Damire Byrd, and Bryan Edwards. It's safe to assume that Mooney would be the top wideout there.
Carolina Panthers: #2 WR
In a group of D.J. Moore, Robby Anderson, Terrence Marshall Jr., Andre Roberts, and Rashard Higgins; Mooney would easily be a #2 or #3 WR. However, Robby Anderson has been downgraded a tad here. His 2021 season was slightly underwhelming.
New Orleans Saints: #3 WR
The Saints have a solid group of playmakers at wide receiver. In fact, one could say Darnell Mooney would be the #2 WR on that team behind a healthy Michael Thomas.
Mooney slides in just behind Thomas and Jarvis Landry. The addition of Chris Olave makes this even more interesting. For now, Mooney projects as the #3 WR.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: #3 WR
This one is simple. Mike Evans and Chris Godwin are clearly ahead of Darnell Mooney.
Dallas Cowboys: #2 WR
As of now, the Cowboys' top WRs are CeeDee Lamb, Michael Gallup, and James Washington. Darnell Mooney slides in as a #2 on this team just behind Lamb.
New York Giants: #1 WR
Darnell Mooney would be the top wide receiver on the New York Giants. They have a solid group with Kenny Golladay, Kadarius Toney, Darius Slayton, Sterling Shepard, and Wan'Dale Robinson.
But, as of now, Mooney tops them all. However, a healthy Golladay could in theory push Mooney down to #2. That's a big "if".
Philadelphia Eagles: #3WR
At this time last year, Mooney is the obvious top choice on the Eagles. But the addition of A.J. Brown and the emergence of Devonta Smith changed that. If placed on the Eagles today, Mooney is the third option.
Washington Commanders: #2 WR
In a group led by Terry McLaurin and Curtis Samuel, it's easy to see Mooney as the #2 WR. Although, Samuel has been pretty solid in the role he's in.
Arizona Cardinals: #2 WR
The Cardinals wideouts, as it stands right now, are Marquise Brown, A.J. Green, Rondale Moore, and Andy Isabella. However, the wild card is DeAndre Hopkins. Once he's back, Mooney would drop down to second fiddle.
Los Angeles Rams: #3 WR
This off-season, the Rams lost Robert Woods and Odell Beckham Jr. On the flip side, they signed Allen Robinson, who was Mooney's teammate for two years.
Now the Rams have a core of Cooper Kupp, Allen Robinson, Van Jefferson, and Tutu Atwell. As a result with Mooney also on this team, he would project as the #3 WR behind Kupp and Robinson.
San Francisco 49ers: #2 WR
Only Deebo Samuel is ahead of Mooney on this team. Sure, Brandon Aiyuk is still there.
But Aiyuk has only shown flashes of what he's capable of. Although the stats are very similar, Mooney squeaks it out just barely over him.
Seattle Seahawks: #3WR
This is another simple one. DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett are still on the roster. Mooney checks in at #3.
Baltimore Ravens: #1 WR
As it stands right now, the Ravens receiving corps has Rashod Bateman, Devin Duvernay, and Tylan Wallace. If Mooney joins Baltimore, he's by far the #1.
Cincinnati Bengals: #3 WR
It's hard to argue that Darnell Mooney would be the top guy on the Bengals. Ja'Marr Chase's rookie season was unbelievable and he looks like the real deal.
Likewise, Tee Higgins is probably ahead of Mooney on that roster as well. On the Bengals, Mooney checks in as the third option, just ahead of Tyler Boyd.
Cleveland Browns: #2 WR
If healthy, Amari Cooper is rightfully ahead of Mooney. The 2020 fifth-rounder comes in ahead of rookie David Bell, Donovan Peoples-Jones, Anthony Schwartz, and Jakeem Grant.
Pittsburgh Steelers: #3 WR
This was a tough one. Diontae Johnson has one year on Mooney and has produced in the Steelers offense. He's the top receiver in Pittsburgh.
Now enters Chase Claypool. Who went three rounds earlier than Mooney in the same draft. In two seasons, both have put up similar numbers.
As of now, Claypool gets the slight edge over Mooney. Since he is a Steelers draft pick, there is probably a stronger affinity there for Claypool.
Houston Texans: #2 WR
When it comes to the Texans, Darnell Mooney and Brandin Cooks are the two headliners here. Cooks and Mooney had eerily similar numbers in 2021. Although, Cooks gets the edge due to his longevity and familiarity with the Texans' offense.
Indianapolis Colts: #1 WR
In this scenario, Darnell Mooney is the top WR in this corps. Mooney is clearly ahead of Parris Campbell, who played a grand total of 15 games in his first three years.
When it comes to Michael Pittman, he and Mooney are very comparable over their first two years. However, in this case, I'm giving Mooney the slight edge even though Pittman was a Colts' second-round draft pick, much like Claypool with the Steelers.
Jacksonville Jaguars: #2 WR
The Jacksonville Jaguars did a lot to add to their receiving corps this offseason. Their group consists of Laviska Shenault, Christian Kirk, Marvin Jones Jr., Zay Jones, Laquon Treadwell, and Marvin Hall. Darnell Mooney would most likely slide in as the #2 behind Shenault.
Tennessee Titans: #2 WR
A healthy Robert Woods is clearly ahead of Darnell Mooney. The rest of the corps includes rookie Treylon Burks, Nick Westbrook-Ikhine, Kyle Phillips, and Des Fitzpatrick. The trade of A.J. Brown to the Eagles was a seismic shift for the Titans.
Buffalo Bills: #2 WR
Only Stefon Diggs is ahead of Darnell Mooney in this group and this position is pretty deep. The rest of the bunch includes Jamison Crowder, Gabriel Davis, Isaiah McKenzie, Jake Kumerow, and rookie Khalil Shakir.
Miami Dolphins: #3 WR
The Dolphins have two headliners in Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle. Thus, Mooney checks in just ahead of Cedrick Wilson and Lynn Bowden Jr.
New England Patriots: #1 WR
While the Patriots do have DeVante Parker, Jakobi Meyers, Nelson Agholor, and Kendrick Bourne on their roster, Darnell Mooney is easily the top wideout on this team. Parker has eclipsed 1,000 yards only once in his career and he's been in the league since 2015.
New York Jets: #1 WR
The Jets have a nice group of wide receivers in Elijah Moore, Corey Davis, Garrett Wilson, Denzel Mims, and Braxton Berrios. If Darnell Mooney is in the mix, he is at worst the second-best option. As of now, let's keep him as the top guy.
Denver Broncos: #2 WR
This was another tough one. The Broncos have a bunch of very good WRs led by Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, Tim Patrick, and KJ Hammier. Nevertheless, after a jostling between #2 and #3, Mooney will be the second option on the Broncos. Of course, on the condition that everyone is healthy.
Kansas City Chiefs: #2 WR
The Chiefs traded away Tyreek Hill. In his replacement, they signed JuJu Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdes-Scantling, as well as drafting Skyy Moore and signing UDFA Justyn Ross.
The Chiefs are also bringing back Mecole Hardman and Josh Gordon. On this roster, Mooney could easily be a #2.
Las Vegas Raiders: #2 WR
The only receiver on this roster definitely better than Darnell Mooney is ex-Packer Davante Adams. Adams is a top-five wide receiver in this league and that goes without question.
Sure, the Raiders have Hunter Renfrow, Keelan Cole, Mack Hollins, and DeMarcus Robinson. But none of them are unquestionably better than Mooney as of today.
Los Angeles Chargers: #3 WR
Simply, Keenan Allen and Mike Williams. Enough said.
At the end of this exercise, we can count up where Mooney fits in the league.
- #1 WR (8 teams): Bears, Packers, Falcons, Giants, Ravens, Colts, Patriots, Jets
- #2 WR (14 teams): Lions, Panthers, Cowboys, Commanders, Cardinals, 49ers, Browns, Texans, Jaguars, Titans, Bills, Broncos, Chiefs, Raiders
- #3 WR (10 teams): Vikings, Saints, Buccaneers, Eagles, Rams, Seahawks, Bengals, Steelers, Dolphins, Chargers
As a result, Mooney is a:
- #1 WR on 25% of teams
- #2 WR on 43.8% of teams
- #3 WR on 31.2% of teams
In my humble opinion, Mooney is a legitimate wide receiver in this league. One that doesn't get the proper respect and the sky is the limit for him, especially since Matt Nagy and his woeful offensive scheme are no longer in the building.
Let's see if Mooney can take that next step as the true #1 receiver on the Chicago Bears.
Tell Us What You Think!
What are your thoughts? Where does Darnell Mooney rank in this league for you? Did we get this right? Is Mooney not getting his proper respect? Is the national media overlooking him? Tell us what you think!