Darnell Mooney or Gabriel Davis for fantasy football in 2022? The answer is yes.

Our Fantasy Crossroads series continues with two of my favorite receivers not just in fantasy football, but in the entire NFL. Both are entering their third seasons in the league, while both are also in play to record career-best campaigns.


Let’s break it down.

Darnell Mooney, WR, Chicago Bears

Darnell Mooney Chicago Bears Fantasy Crossroads

The Case for Mooney

After showing serious signs as a rookie in 2020, Darnell Mooney enjoyed a mini breakout in Year Two, hauling in 81 balls for 1,055 yards and four touchdowns in 2021, finishing as the WR23 in fantasy. Despite playing in an awful offense that featured multiple quarterbacks under center, Mooney still was extremely productive. He operated as the clear top target in this passing game, and that was with Allen Robinson still on the roster. Sure, Mooney averaged more targets per game in the five contests Robinson missed last season (9.4), but Mooney still averaged 7.75 targets, 4.67 receptions and nearly 13 PPR points per game in the 12 contests he played alongside Robinson. Mooney is coming off a season where he posted a 26% target share, the sixth-highest mark in football. Mooney also ranked ninth in receptions share (24%), ninth in receiving yards share (28%) and 10th in percentage of team air yards (35%). Meanwhile, Mooney saw a whopping 33% of Chicago’s first read targets, a number that trailed only Cooper Kupp, Davante Adams, DJ Moore and Justin Jefferson this past season. That is some tremendous volume for Mooney — and Robinson is gone now, with the Bears not really adding anyone of note at the wide receiver position. 

Darnell Mooney

From a talent perspective, Mooney can do it all. He separates at a very high level, especially deep down the field. The issue, however, is that he’s seen so many unrealized air yards over his first two seasons. During his rookie season, Mooney saw 23 deep targets but only converted on four of them. However, just 32% of his deep targets were deemed catchable, which was the 11th-lowest rate among all wide receivers with at least 70 targets. And last season, it was a little better, as 41% of his deep targets were deemed catchable, and I think that number continues to climb with a full season alongside quarterback Justin Fields. During his time in college, Fields displayed tremendous deep ball accuracy and during his rookie season, he posted the 13th-best adjusted completion percentage on passes of 20-plus yards (44.2%). I expect this duo, which already showed signs toward the end of last season, to take a huge step forward, especially since Mooney is entering his third season, which is often the year wideouts truly break out. 

Mooney saw 140 targets in 2021, 12th most. 150-plus targets are firmly in play, especially since his competition for targets is a 25-year-old rookie in Velus Jones, Byron Pringle, Equanimeous St. Brown, Tajae Sharpe and Dante Pettis. After seeing at least seven targets in 12 different games last season, Mooney should present a safe weekly volume floor, while I’d expect more than three games with double-digit targets this season. But he also presents plenty of upside given his ability to separate at all levels of the field, while also still possessing 4.38 speed. To me, Mooney is one of the 30 best wide receivers in all of football, not just fantasy. 

The Case Against Mooney

The main argument against Mooney is the fact that the Bears are likely going to be one of the worst teams in the NFL. On the other hand, that could help him if the team is trailing in games so often. The offense isn’t expected to be great, which could limit the scoring chances for a player who only found the end zone four times last season. Just 31.5% of the drives by this offense last year resulted in scores, the seventh-lowest rate in football, while they also averaged the seventh-fewest points per drive in the league (1.62). Mooney’s nine end zone targets from a year ago ranked 35th among all receivers. 


Gabriel Davis, WR, Buffalo Bills

Gabriel Davis Buffalo Bills Fantasy Crossroads

The Case for Davis

Well, this should be interesting. Perhaps no one is higher on Gabriel Davis than me, the Bills fan. But that’s because there are plenty of reasons to be. Through two seasons in the NFL, Davis has yet to become a full-time player, logging 47.6% and 73.0% of the offensive snaps. That changes in his third NFL season. Buffalo added Jamison Crowder to replace Cole Beasley in the slot, while adding Khalil Shakir in the fifth round of the draft. Davis should start the season as the number-two receiver in one of the five-best offenses in all of football.

Gabriel Davis Buffalo BIlls

His historic postseason game against the Chiefs obviously stands out (8-201-4) but Davis showed signs well before that game. In 2020, Davis averaged 2.21 fantasy points per target (11th) and last year, that number dropped a bit but was still at 2.0 points per target (22nd). A huge reason behind Davis’ insane efficiency has been his touchdowns, as he’s scored 13 regular season touchdowns on just 70 career receptions. That type of touchdown rate obviously isn’t sustainable, but it shows that quarterback Josh Allen has looked Davis’ way when Buffalo gets in close. In fact, Davis’ 12 end zone targets were the eighth most in football, while a whopping 19.7% of his targets came in the end zone. As a result, he averaged an absurd 3.60 fantasy points per touch, the third most in the league at wideout. And during his rookie campaign, Davis saw 11 end zone looks, which was still good for 16th most in football.

Again, when Davis gets opportunities, he usually delivers. In fact, when Davis saw at least five targets last season, he averaged 14.5 PPR points per game, while averaging 11.25 during his rookie season. Touchdowns have been a huge part of his game and while they aren’t easy to predict, keep in mind that Davis is also set to set career-highs in snaps, routes run and targets entering his third season. So while the touchdown rate is sure to come down, the overall receptions and yards will improve, while Davis is still going to flirt with a top-10 rank among all receivers in end zone targets. Davis should be on the field a ton, especially with Buffalo operating out of three-wide sets over 70% of the time last season, one of the highest rates in the league. While Mooney is likely to see more targets, Davis is going to see higher-upside targets from arguably the best quarterback in all of football.

The Case Against Davis

Davis has become a pretty polarizing player in the fantasy space. It seems like you either believe he is truly going to break out or he’s insanely overhyped. I certainly lean toward the former, but unlike Mooney, Davis is in a pretty crowded offense. Buffalo added Crowder, Shakir, O.J. Howard and James Cook during the offseason, while Stefon Diggs is likely to hover around a 25% target share. Odds are, Mooney finished with more targets than Davis and very well might have a higher weekly floor due to that volume. 

The Verdict: Darnell Mooney… barely 

This is such a difficult decision seeing how I absolutely love both wide receivers. However, Mooney, who is actually being drafted after Davis right now, does seem like the safer player. Yes, Davis has the clear edge in touchdown upside and plays in a much, much better offense. However, I still believe in Justin Fields and Mooney is one of seven or eight players in the league right now that could legitimately reach a 30% target share this season.

That said, I’d absolutely love it if both promising young receivers were on my fantasy rosters in 2022.