Chicago Bears WR Darnell Mooney really underrated around the league

Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images
Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images /

The feeling around the NFL is that Chicago Bears wide receiver Darnell Mooney isn’t as good as some fans think he is.

Now that the 2022 NFL Draft is over and done with, we are at a lull in the Chicago Bears’ offseason. Sure, the schedule release signals that the season is almost upon us. Additionally, OTAs (offseason training activities) start next week. Those are temporary pick-me-ups.

When there are lulls, the smallest story gets the biggest attention. This happened recently when wide receiver Darnell Mooney’s abilities were questioned.

Moomey was the Bears’ fifth-round pick in 2020. It seems that shedding that “he’s only a fifth-round pick” label is difficult.

Mooney is the Bears’ top receiver. In 2021, he received the most targets (140) and had the most receptions (81) on the team. He finished the season with 1,055 receiving yards and 4 touchdowns. His five overall touchdowns were second on the team.

However, playing on an offense as anemic as the Bears had last season, his numbers don’t get the respect they deserve. For one thing, being able to eclipse 1,000-receiving yards on an offense that bad is quite an accomplishment.

To give you an idea of how bad they were, the Bears ranked 27th in points scored and 24th in offensive yards. In the passing game, they ranked 30th in yards and 29th in both touchdowns and interceptions thrown.

Mooney’s season, also given that it was just his second season, was downright incredible.

It was then an insult to Chicago Bears Nation when their mortal enemy, Dan Orlovsky, the one who basically called into question Justin Fields‘ work ethic before the draft in 2021, set his sights on Mooney.

Does Orlovsky really believe the Chicago Bears have neither a number one nor a number two wide receiver?

There are questions about Mooney being a true number one receiver. He is shorter than you want in a number one receiver. The top receiver should be an outside threat, while Mooney is better from the slot. To say that he isn’t even a WR2? Fans were outraged.

Ironically, Orlovsky created a firestorm while trying to praise Fields. Fans took to Twitter to voice their displeasure at Orlovsky (again).

Orlovsky isn’t the only one who doesn’t see Mooney’s talents. Pro Football Focus recently had a list of the most underrated player from each team. Guess who was there for the Bears? You guessed it, Mooney!

"If you polled only Bears fans, Mooney might actually be a little overrated, but they have good reason to be optimistic about their speedster receiver and he does appear to be a lot lower in everybody else’s consciousness. Mooney has dropped just 4.1% of catchable targets in Chicago and possesses the kind of speed and quickness combination that scares defenses at all levels. If the team can put a viable offense around him, Mooney could quickly see his production jump to meet his potential."

That is good praise for Mooney. As we saw last season, he played well in a horrible offense. Imagine what he could do in a good one.

For his part, Mooney plays with a chip on his shoulder. He felt disrespected that he was a fifth-round pick. His 142 catches are the most by a Chicago Bears player in his first two seasons. He wants to continue to show how much of a mistake it was for teams to pass him up so many times.

Last preseason, he took it upon himself to stay after practice to work with Fields. It paid huge dividends. When Fields had to go in because of an injury to starter Andy Dalton, he had to have a period of time to grow accustomed to the starting receivers. That didn’t happen with Mooney.

They were already familiar with each other so Mooney was Fields’ security blanket. Then we saw how Mooney’s season developed.

This offseason, Mooney is working with Fields even more. He wants to earn the respect he felt was missing when he got drafted. It appears he still has some work to do to finally show the doubters around the league how wrong they are about him.