Recently, Pro Football Focus released an article detailing the top three players on every NFL squad for the upcoming season. Darnell Mooney, Jaylon Johnson, and Roquan Smith should form the basis of the Chicago Bears’ core for years to come, earning them the nod from PFF.
Mooney has put together a solid first two years in the orange and navy. After an impressive rookie season where he reeled in 61 receptions for 631 yards, Mooney posted his first 1000 yard season last year, making 81 catches for 1055. The 2022 season will be an interesting one for Mooney, who will be thrust into the full-time WR1 role for the first time in his career.
Johnson hopes to be a future building block on the defense. The former second round pick out of Utah has flashed signs of being a shutdown corner, but has dealt with both injuries and up-and-down play. Johnson was hit by the injury bug in his first year, playing in 13 games. His 2021 season started off on a high note, where by the beginning of October Johnson ranked top four in the league for overall grade (84.5), coverage grade (83.0), lowest passer rating allowed (31.5), and forced incompletion percentage (28.6), according to PFF. By the end of the season however, Johnson came down to Earth, finishing with a player grade of 64.2. Hopefully, Johnson’s third season will provide some clarity on the type of player he will be long term.
The one truly established player apart of the Bears’ top three is Smith. To say Smith has become one of the premier linebackers in the NFL would be an understatement. The former eighth overall pick has lived up to the hype, regularly ranking towards the top of many stat categories for linebackers. Just last season, Smith totaled three sacks, 95 total tackles, and was named Second Team All-Pro. This was not even Smith’s best season, as in 2020 the Georgia alum posted a monster statline of four sacks, 98 solo tackles, a forced fumble, a pair of interceptions, and his first All-Pro selection (also a second team nod). Smith’s athleticism and speed makes him an absolute wrecking ball on the field, and, assuming a contract extension gets done, the 25-year old could place himself amongst the great Bears’ defensive players when all is said and done.
PFF included a pair of players “also considered” for the Bears’ top three. Justin Fields just missed the cut, with the article citing his rookie flaws as the reason for his exclusion. However, Fields’ big-play potential provides optimism that he could eventually be in that top three.
The other player receiving consideration was Robert Quinn. The Bears’ new single-season sack record holder earned a Pro Bowl nod last season, and had what might have been his best season as a pro. However Quinn’s age (32), disappointing 2020, and uncertainty of his future as a Bear are most likely what kept him out of the top three.