Darnell Mooney Start/Sit Week 12: I’m buying the breakout for the Bears WR

Darnell Mooney had a monster fantasy game in Week 11, but can he keep it going on Thanksgiving against the Detroit Lions?

The Chicago Bears have a new lead wide receiver, and his name is Darnell Mooney. Coming off a fantasy WR1 performance against the Baltimore Ravens, Mooney is climbing fantasy football ranks, both for this year and in dynasty. Heading into Thanksgiving, what should we expect from him against the Detroit Lions?

Darnell Mooney had a great game in Week 11

To be honest, last week’s Bears/Ravens game was really gross. Justin Fields was forced to leave with an injury, and Lamar Jackson missed the contest with a non-COVID illness. Neither team had anything going on offense, and Chicago led 7-6 at the end of the third quarter.

Somehow though, despite that underwhelming display of offense, Mooney led the league in Week 11 with a whopping 16 targets. 16! That’s an elite level of usage.

Unfortunately, he only caught 5 of them. Still, Mooney turned those receptions into 121 yards and a TD while finishing as the overall WR4 in half-PPR scoring. It wasn’t the most efficient outing, but he saw a target on 50% of his routes and had 219 air yards. It was an eye-opening performance that could have been even better if his catch rate had been remotely close to his 61% season average.

Mooney was basically the entire offense. He commanded a 48% target share with Allen Robinson out, meaning he also received the best coverage that Baltimore could throw at him. He still performed incredibly well. We are witnessing a true breakout.

Not your typical alpha wide receiver

Mooney might not be a prototypical No. 1 wide receiver at 5’11”, 173 pounds, but he sure does get open a lot. Chicago looks like they found a diamond in the rough with this fifth-round pick out of Tulane.

Not every wide receiver needs to be built like Calvin Johnson. The game is changing. Speed and route-running technicians are ushering in a new age of “alpha” wide receivers.

In fact, in 2020, the average height and weight of the top six wide receivers in PPR scoring was 6’0”, 199 pounds. In today’s game, you don’t have to dominate physically if you can dominate in your routes.

The long touchdown that Mooney scored against Baltimore was a simple designed screen. He hit the jets, made two defenders run into each other while breaking an arm tackle, and was gone. His ability to create after the catch is incredibly promising for fantasy football.

Mooney’s fantasy expectations

Mooney is now a cornerstone of Chicago’s offense, and he has chemistry with whoever is at quarterback. Designing a screen to get him the ball in space is exactly what you want to see an offense do, and the Bears are going to do whatever it takes to get him the ball.

On Thanksgiving, Andy Dalton will be at quarterback, but that doesn’t change Mooney’s outlook. Robinson was not at practice on Tuesday, just two days ahead of Chicago’s game against the Lions.

He’s again trending in the wrong direction to play. I’m starting Mooney even if he does.

The Lions’ defense is surprisingly tough against opposing passing games. They’re allowing the 10th-fewest fantasy points to both quarterbacks and wide receivers this year. Even still, Mooney’s target share, volume, and big-play ability give me confidence that he is a WR2 for Week 12.

Jon Helmkamp is a fantasy football and NFL contributor for Pro Football Network. You can find him on Twitter: @JonHelmkamp and find more of his work here. Don’t forget to listen to the PFN Fantasy Football podcast and check out our free fantasy newsletter.