When looking at players to draft, often there are obvious answers, the CMC’s, Elliot’s, Adam’s, and so on. Every now and then, you can find a sleeper with a huge amount of potential. With a lean towards a breakout this NFL season and a peek at his long-term dynasty value, I'm going to tell you why you should draft Darnell Mooney, wide receiver for the Chicago Bears.
If you're looking to tackle some prop bets before the season, be sure to dive into Six NFL Prop Bets for the 2021 NFL Season.
Why You Should Draft Darnell Mooney
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Mooney's College Profile
While Mooney is going into his second year and this is more typical of a rookie profile, I’d like to take a peek back into his college stat’s quickly before going into his NFL rookie stats.
Mooney had a great college resume with the Tulane Green Waves. He wasn’t breaking records, the most catches he recorded in a season was 48, but he averaged nearly 17 yards per reception. When seeing "only" 48 catches, keep in mind Tulane was not a high-volume passing offense. For example, Matthew Gajewski notes that in 2019 the Green Waves passed on a mere 37.9% of their plays.
Looking at Player Profiler, his college target share was 26.7%. A College Dominator of 36.5% (73rd percentile) and a breakout age of 18.9 years old all point to a promising future.
NFL Rookie Year Review
During Mooney’s rookie season, he posted 61 catches for 631 reception yards and 4 TD’s on 98 targets. His 98 targets were 5th among rookies. And though he didn't break records in college, he broke the Bears rookie WR reception record...by a lot. If you weren't watching any of the Bears in 2020, take a look at this reel:
One thing to appreciate in the video above is his usage all over the field. He can be used near the line of scrimmage and make people miss. Catch it deep for a big gain. Even used in the short 5 yard routes to get first downs. Players who show that kind of skill set are more valuable to NFL teams than one-trick ponies.
With that said, I want to dive into Mooney's underutilized ability: the deep threat. Per NFL Next Gen Stats Mooney averaged 3.2 yards of separation from the closest defender on his routes. That's up there with Hopkins, Adams, and Landry. That means he was getting open.
However, being open and being able to catch the football is not the same thing. Targeted 22 times 20+ yards downfield per PFF, he only caught 4 of those targets. Why? An incredible 17 of those were uncatchable! Doing the math, Mooney caught 4 out of 5 catchable deep targets.
If that wasn't enough for you, let me quickly introduce you to Player Profilers metric "unrealized air yards". How does it work? Let's say Player X is targeted 25 yards downfield and doesn't make the catch, that would be 25 unrealized air yards. Mooney had 739 unrealized air yards, 10th most for receivers. How much better his season could have been!
Preview of This Year and Beyond
Armed with all that, and other stats I could have mentioned but didn't for the sake of time (like aDOT and missed tackles), let's look into this season. The Bears now have Andy Dalton and Justin Fields at quarterback, which has to be an upgrade over the Bears QB situation last year.
Even with Dalton likely starting, I'm feeling good that he can support two playable fantasy receivers. If Fields comes in and performs according to his draft capital, I feel even better given his deep ball prowess.
Let's not forget Allen Robinson is the clear alpha here with Mooney being the WR2. Jimmy Graham is another year older, Cole Kmet is another sleeper pick as well. The Bear's just traded away Anthony Miller, opening even more opportunities for Mooney.
98 targets as a rookie are nothing to gloss over, especially after he has a full, true offseason to improve his craft heading into 2021. Even with a slight bump in targets, when combined with improved QB play I think Mooney is ready for a breakout.
To touch on dynasty value for a moment, Allen Robinson is likely leaving after, or possibly during, this season. That will open up even more targets for Mooney in the long run despite the fact the Bears will inevitably add to their WR room after Robinson leaves.
I can see Mooney having a T.Y. Hilton-like career. Both have similar traits, size, and speed. And the situation is similar as well; both were/are ascending talents with young QB's at the helm.
Get To Drafting
Darnell Mooney has an ADP of WR51 on Underdog Fantasy as of this writing, which screams value to me. It would not surprise me if he finishes in the WR3 territory, or better. For a WR 5 price in a 12 team league, this is exactly why you should draft Darnell Mooney. I'm targeting him in redraft and best ball this year as a potential 2021 steal.
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