The Case Against Gary Barnidge
Gary Barnidge had an amazing 2015 season. He was the 3rd ranked fantasy TE. He thrived despite poor QB play and was the most consistent and dangerous weapon in Cleveland. His current 8th round ADP is not outrageously expensive. Many fantasy players will be enticed to target Barnidge because of the facts I just presented. Not me. Here’s why:
The opportunities afforded to Barnidge in 2015 dwarfed his prior 6 years combined and to his credit, he capitalized. The incredible size of the outlier is what I cannot overlook. Here is a snapshot of his career year as compared to his previous 6 seasons:
Being the starting TE for Cleveland, albeit in a new offense led by Hue Jackson, I feel that Barnidge will be a factor in the offense once again. I do not, however, believe he can match his extraordinary 2015 stat line, and history is clearly on my side. I foresee a nice season in line for Barnidge, much more impressive than any of his first 6 seasons. In fact, his first 6 years may end up being the outlier for his career. That being said, if I am going to pay market value for a player, I need to see more than 1 great season, out of 7.
RG3 Does Not Target TEs Consistently
Robert Griffin III has been named the starting QB in Cleveland, and he has not targeted TEs much in his young career. The top TE target has received approximately 12% of RG3s targets. Barnidge excelled in 2015 while receiving 21% of his team’s targets. Under Hue Jackson, top TE targets, Tyler Eifert (2015) and Jermaine Gresham (2014) received 15% of Cincinnati Bengals team targets. Andy Dalton is more of a system QB than RG3, who is best known for scrambling and the long ball. This does not add up to a ton of targets for Barnidge. To be fair, I will estimate a 14% target rate. That equates to 71 targets for Barnidge, 54 less than in 2015. Jackson can coach him up as much as he wants, but when the bullets are flying, most players revert back to who they really are. RG3 is not a QB who focuses on the TE position.
Multiple New Weapons
The potential dip in targets based on RG3 leading the Browns’ attack, doesn’t even account for the plethora of new weapons in Cleveland. Travis Benjamin and Duke Johnson proved to be valuable players in 2015, but no one can argue that Cleveland has upgraded their passing game personnel in 2016.
- Duke Johnson is perfectly suited to fill the Giovani Bernard role in Cleveland and should see his 74 targets increase.
- Highly touted WR, Josh Gordon, is finally back and will only miss 4 games. He has proven to be a difference maker in the past and is a perfect fit for RG3s deep attacking style.
- Cleveland drafted 4 WRs and 1 TE in the 2016 draft. By all accounts, at least two of them, Corey Coleman and Rashard Higgins, are set up to contribute this season. Coleman is being brought along slowly following a nagging hamstring injury early in camp, but he was the 1st WR taken in the draft for a reason.
- Terrelle Pryor may finally get it. This is an athlete who makes other world class athletes look silly. If preseason is any indication, Pryor could be a meaningful contributor for Cleveland in 2016.
Now that Cleveland has a nice array of receiving weapons, Barnidge will not be heavily targeted again.
Gary Barnidge is a nice player. His stint with the Carolina Panthers showed early signs of promise but was stunted by the dominant TE play of Greg Olsen resulting in a lack of opportunity. His first 2 seasons in Cleveland did not look much better, but everything came up roses for him in 2015. I hope his success continues, but as a fantasy owner, I cannot invest in a player who displayed 6 straight years of fantasy irrelevance until I see more evidence to the contrary. I look forward to seeing a mature passing attack by RG3, but again, until I do, I won’t take a leap of faith that it will happen. The Browns’ passing attack actually looks exciting this year. Unfortunately for Barnidge, that will mean many less targets coming his way.