On December 15, Darnell Mooney and the Tulane Green Wave take on the Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns in the Cure Bowl. Mooney has perpetually been an off-the-radar prospect, but he’s put together the production to be a meaningful prospect.
Mooney was a two-star wide receiver prospect out of Gadsen City High School in Alabama who played on both sides of the ball. Per 247 Sports, he was the 351st ranked WR in the class and 91st overall prospect in the state of Alabama. And while that may come off as slightly underwhelming, he was an Alabama Sports Writers Association Class 7A First-team All-State selection after his senior season. During his senior year, he he caught 37 passes for 697 yards and nine touchdowns, returned three punts for touchdowns, one kickoff for a touchdown, and added one interception on defense.
And to add some additional confidence in his athleticism, Mooney played point guard for his high school team and helped the team reach the state playoffs three times. Mooney wasn’t a heavily recruited athlete and joined the Tulane program in 2016.
When Mooney joined the team, Tulane was an anemic passing attack, totaling less than 1,500 passing yards during his freshman year. But as it improved each season, so did Mooney’s market share.
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Coming in as a 5-foot-11-inch,1 170 pound prospect, Mooney made an impact during his freshman season with nearly 20 percent of the market share of receiving yards and 20 percent of the team’s touchdowns. However, on an offense that totals less than 1,500 yards and ten touchdowns, the raw numbers fail to jump off the page. The next season saw the offense improve in coach Willie Fritz’s second season by growing to nearly 2,000 passing yards. And Mooney proved that his usage was not simply a product of low volume. He more than doubled his yardage and doubled his touchdowns and finished with a dominator rating of 0.32 which qualifies as a breakout season. He was still second on the team in both receptions and yards, behind Terren Encalade, but it was clear that he was a big part of the offense.
Mooney’s apex is clearly the 2018 season by all measures. By the end of the bowl game, he’ll likely surpass 1,000 yards for the first time in his career and he’s doubled his touchdown total from 2017. And while his 17.6 yards per reception average from 2017 was already impressive, he improved it by nearly 3.5 yards. According to Bill Connelly’s team profile, he led the team in targets (83), receptions (47), yards (987), and touchdowns (eight). His 0.50 dominator rating leads all college receivers and his market share of yards ranks second, only behind Andy Isabella of Massachusetts. Should this be Mooney’s final season, he will have put together one of the best advanced metric campaigns of the year.
As of today, Mooney has not declared for the NFL Draft and it would be a moderate surprise if he decided to forego his final college season, but there’s reason to believe that this could be a mistake. Kevin Cole taught us a few years ago that college production was the most important measure for potential NFL success and Mooney has elite usage. While his exact age isn’t readily accessible, his sophomore season breakout can be estimated to be in his age 20 season which would be above average. There are many signs that he could be a strong prospect, of which, the prospect regression tree stands out the most.
With a career market share over 29 percent and a final season market share over 42 percent, Mooney finishes in the elite final node. With a historical success rate2 of 61 percent, there’s reason to be excited about his potential. Barring a significant change in his NFL draft value in the draft process, he will likely be a late round pick and a late round rookie pick in dynasty leagues if he decides to make the leap to the NFL.