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NFL Draft

Darnell Mooney Meeting Year 2 Expectations Can Help Unlock Bears’ Offense

  • The Draft Network
  • May 22, 2021
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By Michael Fitzpatrick

Darnell Mooney was a pleasant surprise for the Chicago Bears in 2020. Mooney, a 2020 fifth-round selection, finished his rookie season with 61 catches for 631 yards and four touchdowns. He did all that with the subpar quarterback play too. 

This year, Mooney will have Justin Fields throwing him the ball at some point, leaving expectations for the second-year wide receiver out of Tulane sky-high as he takes on a bigger role.

The first and most simple expectation for Mooney is to surpass 1,000 receiving yards. With the Bears' offensive struggles last year, especially at quarterback, receiving yards weren’t always easy to come by, and Allen Robinson II was still able to lead the team with 1,250 yards. With improved quarterback play, Mooney should be able to crack quadruple digits.

Mooney should also be able to create more big plays down the field. He only had six catches for more than 20 yards in 2019. With Mooney’s 4.39 speed and length, he should be a lethal downfield target. Fields’ arm strength and deep ball accuracy can elevate Mooney to an elite deep threat. Mooney consistently taking the top off the defense can open up everything else that head coach Matt Nagy hopes to do on offense.

The Bears are getting gadget play extraordinaire Tarik Cohen back from an ACL injury, but that shouldn’t take away from expectations of Mooney getting involved in the offense in multiple ways. Using inventive ways to get Mooney the ball in space, like Nagy has done in the past with Cohen, will be key to unlocking the Bears’ full potential on offense.

One final expectation for Mooney should be to improve as a blocker. Mooney is going to be on the field even more than he was last year, so he has to be a reliable blocker. It’s all connected: The better Mooney blocks, the more successful the Bears are running the ball; the more success on the ground opens up more chances for Mooney to beat defenses deep.

Mooney’s rookie season was so impressive that there aren’t many outlandish expectations going into this year. If he just continues to develop, the Bears have an elite weapon on their offense.

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