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Three Bears labeled as potential fantasy football sleepers

Justin Fields, Darnell Mooney and Cole Kmet
Justin Fields, Darnell Mooney and Cole Kmet

ESPN fantasy football experts are predicting big things for three Bears' skill-position players this season.

In an article posted Thursday, Field Yates and Joe Kaiser both named receiver Darnell Mooney as a "breakout player."

Mooney was also among three Bears who were tabbed as "sleepers" at their respective positions; he was chosen by Keith Lipscomb, while quarterback Justin Fields was selected by Kaiser and tight end Cole Kmet was picked by Matt Bowen and Daniel Dopp.

A 2019 fifth-round pick out of Tulane, Mooney has exceeded expectations since entering the league. Last year he recorded the 18th 1,000-yard receiving campaign in franchise history, and his 142 career receptions are the most by a Bears player in his first two NFL seasons.

"Mooney has already stated his case as a budding star after finishing in the top 20 in both receptions and receiving yards last season," Yates wrote. "Among all players with at least 80 catches, Mooney's 13.0 yards per catch ranked fourth, behind only Cooper Kupp, Justin Jefferson and Ja'Marr Chase. Decent company. He's a potential big-play threat with an obvious path toward massive volume, and I'm a firm believer that he and Justin Fields will take a decided leap forward this year. They've spent extensive time training together this offseason."

Since being selected by the Bears in the second round of the 2020 draft out of Notre Dame, Kmet has caught 88 passes for 855 yards and two touchdowns in 33 games over two seasons. He more than doubled his rookie year output in 2021 with 60 receptions for 612 yards.

"Kmet caught 60 of 91 targets last season," Bowen wrote. "And we know the pass-catching traits are there to see the ball in Chicago's new offensive system with quarterback Justin Fields entering his second pro season. It's the anticipated red zone usage, however, that puts the third-year tight end in the mix for a potential breakout season. Kmet saw a total of just 12 red zone targets last year, with only six end zone targets. And he failed to log a single touchdown. But with tight end Jimmy Graham now out of the picture, there's an open door for Kmet to see a boost in scoring opportunities–which would push him into the TE1 discussion."

Each ESPN analyst named a sleeper and a bust for each of the major offensive positions, as well as one breakout candidate. A sleeper was defined as "a player who is being overlooked and will outperform his average draft position (ADP) in 2022." A breakout performer was considered "a player who will rise up with career-best numbers in 2022 and make a huge impact."

No Bears players were listed as potential busts.