Chicago Bears: The good and bad of Darnell Mooney at WR1

Evan Bruner
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - JANUARY 09: Darnell Mooney #11 of the Chicago Bears warms up before the game against the Minnesota Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium on January 9, 2022 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - JANUARY 09: Darnell Mooney #11 of the Chicago Bears warms up before the game against the Minnesota Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium on January 9, 2022 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images) /
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The negatives of having Darnell Mooney at WR1

The Bears resorted to Mooney as their top receiver out of necessity in 2021. Robinson flat out wasn’t producing, and the team had little choice of who to target.  In 2022, they will have him as their top receiver out of preference. Franchise tags made the free agency class much weaker, and the draft board didn’t fall the Bears’ way to get their hands on a top receiving prospect. But the truth is the Bears had multiple opportunities to bring in a receiver that could at least challenge Mooney for WR1 status and ultimately chose not to.

Mooney has done a great job of adjusting on the fly in the NFL. His role on the offense has changed dramatically over the last two years, and he hasn’t made any excuses. With that said, just because a player has played a variety of roles doesn’t mean there isn’t a role he’s best suited for. The main reason why Mooney doesn’t fit the mold of the prototypical No.1 option is that he doesn’t have the skill set to win in a variety of ways.

Whereas receivers like Allen Robinson were able to outmuscle defenders in contested catch situations, the 5’11 173 pound Mooney is too small to do so. This makes it so Fields can’t force balls to Mooney when he is covered. This might seem insignificant, but having a receiver that can bail the quarterback out when nothing is open is part of what makes top receivers so highly coveted.

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Mooney was never drafted to be a high-usage wide receiver. His game was and still is getting open downfield and creating splash plays. The problem is that can’t be the bread and butter of an offense. Though Mooney is serviceable in the short to intermediate game, he doesn’t quite have WR1 skills there. The more the Bears target Mooney in the short game, the fewer opportunities he’ll have in the deep passing game. Just because it worked out okay in 2021 doesn’t mean it is a practical approach long term.

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