The Case For Gary Barnidge
Gary “Barnkowski” Barnidge burst onto the scene in 2015 with an “out-of-nowhere” career year. After posting just 44 receptions for 630 yards and 3 TDs in his first six seasons, the stars aligned for him in 2015, posting 79 receptions, 1,043 yards, and 9 TDs. The Cleveland Browns front office believed it was a sign of things to come, signing him to a new 3-year contract. But can Gary Barnidge repeat with another top five TE finish? I’m here to show you that he can.
It’s no secret that the 2015 version of the Cleveland Browns team was not good. In fact, Gary Barnidge was one of the very few bright spots for the team, in terms of fantasy football production. He led the team in receptions, yards, and TDs while finishing tied with Travis Benjamin for targets. Travis Benjamin moving to San Diego leaves Barnidge as the top returning pass catcher for new head coach, Hue Jackson. Throughout his career as an offensive coordinator and head coach, Hue Jackson’s teams have regularly found a TE finishing in the top three of the target totals and highly involved in the red zone. His TEs have been heavily involved in seasons where there was a lack of top-end talent at the WR position. which brings us to the next point, competition.
While there is no lack of potential in the Browns receiving corp, there is a lack of proven production. First and foremost is Josh Gordon, returning to game action for the first time since Week 16 of the 2014 season. Josh Gordon is no doubt an impressive talent, but when he returns from his four-game suspension in Week 5, it will be his first game action in nearly two years and just his 6th game since the end of 2013. Since his reinstatement at the beginning of August, he has missed crucial practice time due to a quad strain. Plenty of questions abound about his ability to return to his breakout 2013 form. Next is rookie Corey Coleman, who has impressed in camp, but is still a rookie who may not be the most reliable target as he adjusts to the NFL. Last is converted QB, Terrelle Pryor. He’s made some splash plays in the preseason, but does he have the experience to be a top option in the passing game? The rest of the depth chart is filled with rookies and unimpressive veterans.
Meanwhile, Gary Barnidge proved to be a very effective target in 2015. He’s an imposing player and red zone threat at 6’5” and 250lbs. He’s surprisingly fast for a man of his size, running a 4.65 in the 40yd dash. He’s also the type of target that new QB Robert Griffin III has experience throwing to since his time in Washington.
As of this writing, Gary Barnidge is currently the 9th TE off the board at the end of the 8th Round in 12-team, PPR leagues. While not a screaming bargain, last year’s TE4 is coming off the board behind Tyler Eifert, who might miss the first few weeks or at least be limited early on.
The stars aligned for Gary Barnidge in 2015 and I believe they are aligning again in 2016. He is the top returning target, playing for a TE friendly coach with a QB who is known to utilize the TE position regularly in the passing game. His main competition for targets comes from a talented but mercurial WR coming off 21 straight games of suspension, a rookie WR, and a converted QB. Gary Barnidge is a great target for your TE1 position later in your draft, who has proven he can produce top 5 results.