It is hardly a secret the Chicago Bears are rarely a favorite team for ESPN these days. The prominent sports outlet rarely has anything positive to say about them and when they do, it clearly feels forced. So right on cue, they found a way to snipe the Bears yet again. How? With a collaborative list alongside Pro Football Focus. One that revealed their ranking of the most likely second-year breakout players. If anybody who reads it has a right to be angry, it will be Darnell Mooney and Jaylon Johnson.
As one can probably guess, there isn’t a single Bears player to be found on the list. That alone is bad enough. What makes it worse is a number of players on Mooney’s and Johnson’s own positions were on it. Players they outperformed as rookies. For example, Las Vegas Raiders receiver Henry Ruggs was #9 on the list. This despite the fact that Mooney actually outperformed him with 631 yards and four touchdowns to Ruggs’ 452 yards and two touchdowns. The latter even had a far better quarterback throwing him the football in Derek Carr.
So how in the world is he on the list and Mooney isn’t?
The fact he was a 1st round pick. That is pretty much the size of it. Mooney being a 5th round pick meant he didn’t have the hype machine behind him. The same can be said for Johnson. Most agree he had the best season of any cornerback in the 2020 draft class. He had 15 passes defended, two of which became interceptions for teammates, and allowed just 56.4% of passes thrown in his direction to be completed.
So was he the choice? Nope. That honor went to Jeff Okudah. The former #3 overall pick who missed seven games, had just two passes defended, and allowed more than 77% of passes thrown at him to be completed. Even the person making the actual list admitted he sucked last year.
“It’s impossible for Okudah to struggle more than he did in 2020, and that’s why he’s a breakout candidate for 2021. Among the 23 rookie cornerbacks with at least 100 coverage snaps, his 30.9 grade ranked last. It’s the third-worst grade for a rookie cornerback in the past five seasons.”
Did that stop them from putting him on the list instead of Johnson? Nope. That’s fine. It is things like this that should only end up fueling the Bears teammates even more this coming season.
Welcome to the NFL, Jeff Okudah pic.twitter.com/qOycpvLvjX
— Matt Schneidman (@mattschneidman) September 21, 2020
Jaylon Johnson continues his STELLAR rookie season with a PBU on the deep ball from Jared Goffpic.twitter.com/TCVtSMvfKO
— PFF (@PFF) October 27, 2020
Darnell Mooney and Jaylon Johnson have big plans
Both will be stepping into bigger roles this season. Johnson is now expected to become the top cornerback on the Bears’ defense after the departure of Kyle Fuller. Not only that, but it’s fair to wonder if the team will have him travel with the top receiver of every opponent they face. Something Fuller never did, preferring instead to play on just one side of the field. That increases the opportunities for Johnson to shine.
Darnell Mooney though might have the biggest chance to show the world what he can do. Remember that he broke the Bears’ rookie record for receptions last season. That was with Mitch Trubisky and Nick Foles throwing him the ball. Now Andy Dalton and Justin Fields have taken over at quarterback. That certainly looks like an upgrade on paper. If they do even a marginally better job throwing down the field?
Mooney could explode.
If nothing else, this is a reminder that both players might somehow be overlooked outside of the Chicago area. They already have plenty of motivation to play well this season. The fact that outlets like ESPN go out of their way to ignore them like this only feeds their hunger that much more.