Each week in Cutting Through the Noise, we will be taking an objective look at one of the most polarizing players in dynasty fantasy football as decided by the Footballguys Dynasty Discord. We will use the Footballguys consensus dynasty rankings to gauge where the player is currently valued.
This week’s most polarizing player comes from Diesel.
Wide Receiver (37) – Overall (74)
|Overall||Player||Pos Rk||Team||Age||Avg||High||Low||Individual Rankings|
Darnell Mooney paired being a small school product with mediocre production in his collegiate career. He totaled 2572 receiving yards in his four years at Tulane. In his final season, he managed 48 catches for 713 yards and 5 touchdowns. Given Tulane's roster, it is tough to hold his average production against him. However, his high-school production is what brought him to a lesser program.
Mooney had an impressive combine showing which included a 4.38 second 40-yard-dash. In 2020 he was drafted 173 overall to the Chicago Bears. Fifth-round wide receivers are not typically dynasty darlings, but Mooney was the beneficiary of a dreadful offensive depth chart. Aside from Allen Robinson, Mooney was competing with Anthony Miller, Cordarelle Patterson, Javon Wims, and Tedd Ginn. He quickly became a late-round favorite just ahead of a couple of other hits in Gabe Davis and Jalen Hurts.
Mooney totaled a promising 142 catches for 1,686 yards and 8 touchdowns in his first two seasons. He was working with a combination of Mitch Trubisky, Andy Dalton, and rookie Justin Fields. Through two weeks in 2022, Mooney has earned a disappointing five targets for two receptions and four yards.
The rate at which fifth-round rookie wide receivers produce top 24 seasons is under 1%. To begin Mooney’s career, he looked like he could defy this statistic as Stefon Diggs and Tyreek Hill had in the past. The problem with Mooney’s production has less to do with him than with the offense he is attached to. The Bears are ranked 32nd in the league in pass rate over expectation. Fields has attempted just 28 passes through two weeks.
Offensive production can be temporary, but head coach Matt Eberflus just arrived and should have his job for the next couple of seasons. If this is his brand of football, Mooney will be 27 years old before he gets the opportunity to thrive in a new offense. There is no guarantee his next offense will utilize his talent any better. Mooney must earn targets now and create opportunities for himself if he is to pay off at his current ranking.
Mooney is already considered one of the 1% of fifth-round wide receivers to produce a top 24 season, as he was wide receiver 23 in 2021. This may seem trivial, but it puts him in an entirely different bucket of concern. He has already climbed the highest mountain and now must overcome many smaller peaks.
Justin Fields is objectively better than the opportunity he has been given through two games. His season totals are skewed due to the Week 1 weather conditions. Week 2 is where the concern truly lies. Eberflus completely abandoned the passing game even in a huge scoring deficit against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. The Bears were moving the ball more effectively with David Montgomery, but only because they were down multiple scores and benefiting from the Packers' situational defense. Eberflus will have no choice but to pass more than he did in Week 2.
Mooney is playing 90% of the snaps, and his competition for targets has to be the worst receiving unit in the league. If Fields’ pass attempts increase at any rate, Mooney’s production will be directly correlated.
Darnell Mooney has proven he can be a top-24 receiver in a given season. He can pay off his ranking at WR37, but there is only so much he can do to force the issue. Eberflus was given deceptive affirmation after seeing how well the offense moved the ball when they abandoned the passing game entirely. We would like to think that someone in the building is sharp enough to point out the Packers' defensive alignment predicated around stopping a desperate offense’s passing attack.
We are likely to see at least a few more weeks of the Bears leading the league in rush attempts before we start to see a shift. There is no guarantee that shift ever comes. Mooney is the victim of multiple variables out of his control, from Fields’ development to Eberflus’ questionable understanding of today’s NFL.
If Mooney falls to WR60 by mid-season, he will be worth targeting via trade. At WR37, he simply is not worth the risk. We try to bet on talent, but talent can’t produce without opportunity.
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