Darnell Mooney

Where does Darnell Mooney rank among NFC North wide receivers?

Chicago Bears wide receiver Darnell Mooney has become an afterthought whenever the Bears’ pass-catchers are discussed. Instead, the focus is on the other guys — Byron Pringle, Velus Jones Jr., and Equanimeous St. Brown. And while it’s true this group offers an unclear upside, Mooney’s talent is well-established, and his status as one of the NFL’s top young wideouts is on the rise.

The Bears haven’t been given much of a chance to compete in the NFC North this season. The sportsbooks and football media are in lockstep about Chicago finishing with double-digit losses. One of the main reasons for such pessimism is — you guessed it — the Bears’ apparent failure to level up the wide receivers and help quarterback Justin Fields this offseason.

Fields’ second season will be monitored closely by analysts who think his ceiling is lower because of general manager Ryan Poles’ decision to avoid big-name wide receivers in free agency and the 2022 NFL draft. There will be some confirmation bias at play, too. With so many pundits predicting doom for Fields and the Bears, they’ll claim victory at the first sign of struggle.

But there’s something odd about Mooney being overlooked as a viable weapon for the Bears offense this season. He finished 2021 with more than 1,000 receiving yards despite playing in a clueless offense. He was forced to catch passes from Andy Dalton in six games and Nick Foles in another. That, alone, makes his season stat line more impressive.

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