Welcome to Breakouts and Busts where I highlight one breakout candidate and one bust candidate for the 2021 fantasy season. In this first edition of this series, I’ll take a look at two Chicago Bears on opposite sides of the spectrum.
BREAKOUT - Darnell Mooney (WR - CHI)
2020 Season Overview
There was a lot to like about the rookie wideout in 2020. The 5th round pick out of Tulane didn’t take much time to make an impact, scoring a TD in the second game of his career and I believe it was the first of many more to come. Over the course of the season, his targets continued to go up as he got used to the lowly Chicago Bears passing offense that ended the 2020 season ranked 22nd. Mooney played in all 16 games, starting nine of them, and ended the year catching 61 of his 98 targets for 631 yards and 4 TDs.
Darnell Mooney showed a ton of promise and was very effective at creating separation from his defenders all season long. The deep ball is his game and he reminds so much of DeSean Jackson. We all know how good DJax was in his prime and I believe that, in 2021, Mooney is going to take a big step towards being that elite deep threat I know he can become.
What Went Wrong in 2020?
The quarterback play. Oh boy did the Bears have some horrible quarterback play last season. It was downright atrocious for most of the campaign, until Mitch Trubisky reclaimed the starting job. From Week 12 onwards, it was a little bit better, but even then, it’s not like they suddenly had an elite offense. It was a slightly above average offense at best.
What I’m getting at is that it’s safe to say, no matter who was throwing Mooney the ball, they were doing a very bad job at it and his stats paint a clear picture of this.
(stats from pro-football-reference.com)
Darnell Mooney saw nearly 100 targets thrown his way, which is exactly what you want to see for a rookie WR, but he only ended up with just a 62.2% catch rate. If you think that has to do with Mooney being a rookie and rookies being known to drop more passes, he only had 2 drops on the whole season. What this shows is that Mooney is a sure-handed deep threat, but is getting a lot of uncatchable passes thrown in his direction, leading to a very low catch rate.
(stats from playerprofiler.com)
It’s clear that Darnell Mooney saw a good amount of opportunity in 2020. His 3.2 yard average separation per route, 1157 air yards, 11.8 yard average target distance and 23 deep targets show that he’s being used as a deep threat in this Chicago Bears offense, but 739 of those air yards were unrealized, which is the 10th most out of all WRs. If even just a few of those deep throws were on target, Mooney could’ve ended up in the endzone a good three to four more times. It must’ve been infuriating for Bears fans to watch Mooney get open on nearly every play only for Foles to throw the ball to the moon like its a share of GME.
What Will Change in 2021?
The quarterback play. Honestly, I don’t see how it could get any worse no matter who their QB is next season. Rumor has it that Mitch Trubisky won’t be returning next season and after how bad Nick Foles looked in 2020, there’s no chance the Bears have any confidence rolling with him as their starter. This is all great news for those who own Mooney in dynasty leagues. There are a lot of rumors out there about who the next Chicago Bears starting QB will be, but we could safely rule out Carson Wentz now that he’s been traded to the Indianapolis Colts.
It doesn’t appear like the Bears have the assets to get a trade for Deshaun Watson completed, but obviously, if Watson is their QB next season, Mooney stonks will skyrocket. There are some more realistic options out there though, including Teddy Bridgewater, Cam Newton or simply just drafting a QB. Personally, I don’t really like any of their options not named Deshaun Watson or Dak Prescott, so I think they’ll be drafting a QB in the first round. Whoever their QB is next season, a new QB is good news for Darnell Mooney.
There’s also a good chance that both Allen Robinson and Jimmy Graham will be leaving the Chicago Bears this offseason, which could open up a whopping 226 targets. Some of those will go to 2nd-year TE Cole Kmet and some of it will go to 2nd-year WR Darnell Mooney. Of course, there’s also a chance that Chicago does retain Allen Robinson’s services or brings in a different WR, such as Chris Godwin or Kenny Golladay, which could take a good amount of those vacant targets away from Mooney.
As of writing this article, according to FantasyPros, Darnell Mooney is their 62nd-ranked WR and 171st overall in their Expert Consensus Rankings. He is just screaming value, going anywhere between rounds 12 to 14 in mock drafts. He’s being drafted around the same time as players like Darius Slayton (WR - NYG), Christian Kirk (WR - ARI) and Quintez Cyphus (WR - DET). Frankly, I’d be willing to take a shot on Mooney over any of those players.
If things go right for him this offseason, Mooney has all the tools to be the Bears' WR1. He could put up an 80 reception, 1000 yard and 10 TD season in that role and be a low-end WR1/high-end WR2 in fantasy. Even if he’s the Bears’ WR2, Mooney should be able to improve on his rookie numbers due to improved QB play and put up WR3 numbers at worst.
BUST - David Montgomery (RB - CHI)
2020 Season Overview
David Montgomery had an up and down campaign in 2020, but got it together by the end of the year and very well may have been the reason why you won a fantasy championship. Personally, he was the co-MVP of my title winning team last year along with Travis Kelce.
On the ground, Monty finished the year with 247 carries for 1070 yards and 8 TDs. Through the air, he caught 54 of 68 targets for 438 yards and 2 TDs. Overall, he turned 301 touches into 1508 total yards and 10 total TDs. It’s safe to say Monty absolutely killed it last season, but it was a tale of two halves for the Bears’ RB.
Montgomery started the year off with two solid games, but his production slowed down significantly from that point on until Week 9. Between weeks 3 and 9, Montgomery had just 1 TD and only accumulated more than 100 total yards once. It was tough sledding for the Bears’ RB, but things changed once he returned from a concussion in Week 12.
From Weeks 12 to 16, Monty rushed 94 times for 529 yards and 6 TDs, meaning he averaged over 100 rushing yards and 1 TD per game. That is a ridiculous turnaround considering how bad things were earlier in the year. Montgomery got hot when it mattered most for fantasy owners.
What Went Right in 2020?
There are a few reasons why things went right for Montgomery in 2020. For starters, Montgomery was the main beneficiary of Tarik Cohen’s season-ending ACL injury. Cohen is the Chicago Bears’ pass-catching RB extraordinaire who gets the bulk of the receiving work when healthy, but he got injured in Week 3 against the Atlanta Falcons, which opened the door for Montgomery to take a huge step forward.
Before Cohen’s injury, Montgomery was averaging just 3 targets and 2 receptions per game, which is nothing special. He was on pace for just 45 targets and 30 receptions, but things changed after Cohen’s injury. Monty averaged 4.5 targets and 3.5 receptions from then on out, which is a 67.5 target and 52.5 reception pace over a whole fantasy season. As you can see, Monty’s receiving numbers were clearly affected by Cohen’s injury.
Montgomery had a very difficult start to the year on the ground as it took him until Week 12 to finally run for over 100 yards. The offensive line was struggling to create any holes for him and he was running into stacked boxes time and time again because Nick Foles’ arm posed no threat to opposing defenses. Once Mitch Trubisky won the starting job back from Foles, we saw a big improvement from the Bears’ passing offense, which opened up more opportunities for Montgomery.
On top of all that, the Bears completely reshuffled their offensive line entering Week 12. They started playing Sam Mustipher at center after moving Cody Whitehair from that spot to left guard. Germain Ifedi moved to right guard, replacing Rashaad Coward at right tackle. Alex Bars moved to right guard. Charles Leno Jr. was the only Bears offensive lineman who didn’t get moved around, remaining at left tackle. All of this change benefitted Montgomery, who went on a tear from Week 12 until the end of the fantasy season.
What Will Change in 2021?
The return of Tarik Cohen. Tarik Cohen will be back in 2021, which will eat into David Montgomery’s receiving workload. The main reason why Monty had such a great year for fantasy in 2020 was not only because he got hot at the right time, but that he was seeing almost all of the pass-catching work from Week 4 onwards due to Cohen’s season-ending ACL injury. Take a look at Montgomery’s career numbers.
(stats from pro-football-reference.com)
His 68 targets ranked 6th among RBs and he ran the most routes out of any RB in the NFL last season. In 2019, with Cohen healthy, Monty saw just 35 targets and a 57.9% snap share, which is almost a whole 20% lower than in 2020. Of course, that was his rookie season, so I fully expect his snap share to be closer to 67% in 2021, but that’s still a 10% decrease from last season. Also, his target and reception totals should be closer to his rookie season than his sophomore season. Expect his targets to be more in the 35-40 range than the 65-70 range in 2021, which means significantly worse fantasy production in half and full PPR leagues.
As of writing this article, according to FantasyPros, David Montgomery is their 19th-ranked RB and 45th overall in their Expert Consensus Rankings. This means he’s being drafted in the middle to late 4th round in way too early 12 team 2021 fantasy football mock drafts. Considering that he ended last season as a high-end RB1, it seems like fair value on the surface, but once you take a look at the other players available in the mid to late 4th round, it becomes clear that Monty isn’t the best choice.
He’s getting drafted around the same time as players like Clyde Edwards-Helaire (RB - KC), James Robinson (RB - JAX), Antonio Gibson (RB - WAS) and Chris Carson (RB - SEA), all players I’d rather have over David Montgomery. In standard league, Monty is a fine pick in Round 4 as he should see almost all of the rushing work for Chicago this season and finish as a low-end RB1. For half and full PPR leagues, David Montgomery is only worth picking in Round 6 or later because he will not be the high-end RB1 he was last year. Monty is shaping up to be a low-end RB2 in PPR league, making him a prime bust candidate at his current ADP.