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NFL Draft

Darnell Mooney Already Looks Like A Day 3 Steal

  • The Draft Network
  • September 21, 2020
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There’s been some great rookie receiver play throughout the first two weeks of the NFL season, but perhaps none has been more surprising—at least from a general consensus—than Chicago Bears fifth-round draft choice Darnell Mooney.

I was extremely high on the Tulane prospect in the pre-draft process, going as far as to call him the most underrated wide receiver in the entire 2020 class, but I’ll even admit that I didn’t envision him having this much success early on.

Taken all the way down at the 173rd overall pick back in April, Mooney has already become the Bears’ top wideout behind Allen Robinson, participating in 60% of the Bears’ offensive snaps in Week 2. Jumping former second-round pick Anthony Miller and relegating him to a pure slot role, Mooney's also become a stalwart in 12-personnel formations, evidenced by his 21 routes run in Week 2 as opposed to Miller’s 17.

No, Mooney’s production hasn’t been otherworldly when attached to these expanded reps, as he’s posted a reasonable 6-74-1 line through two games, but just like in college, he’s been open far more often than his basic stats would suggest.

Above average in terms of both separation and yards after catch (via Next Gen Stats), Mooney has used his patented 4.38 speed to get open, but he’s also proved that his ability to stack defenders and create leverage vertically works incredibly well at the pro level. Able to accelerate in and out of breaks effortlessly, he’s had a few double moves that have completely abused defenders—most specifically a post-corner against Detroit in Week 1—that could have gone for long gains if he had been targeted.

At the end of the day, we’re still a long way out from an “I told you so” when it comes to Mooney being a draft-day steal, but the progress he’s made in such a short time is absolutely amazing. A guy rarely makes his way from being a Day 3 pick to being a starter in his second week, let alone in an unprecedented year with no preseason, but Mooney is exactly that—rare.

In his first interview after Chicago trade up for him, Mooney said that “(I) just know that as soon as I get in, I'm going to make a lot of noise."

With his rare traits and strong football IQ, noise has indeed been made.

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