Gary Barnidge: The Career Journeyman Who Can Win You Fantasy Football Games

You may not have heard of him before this season, but Gary Barnidge has been among the top tight ends this season.

Sometimes you play fantasy games and have no lineup decisions at all. However, the ramp up of daily contests and the continuation of dynasty and redraft leagues sometimes requires you to stream or pull a rabbit out of your hat due to injuries, bye weeks, or lack of overall depth.

When you grab a guy you aren't expecting much out of and he performs well, you feel like the cashier at the grocery store gave you an extra 20 bucks by mistake. 

I personally experienced this in Week 4 when I replaced Rob Gronkowski, who was on a bye, with Gary Barnidge, who was coming off a career game against the Oakland Raiders (seems like every tight end has had a career game against the Raiders this year).

I figured maybe Barnidge would have a few catches but would regress back down to earth following a matchup against the Raiders' tight-end friendly defense.

Then, this catch happened. Soon afterwards, Barnidge scored a touchdown and many fantasy owners like me, felt like they stole a victory.

An Elite Option?

However, when you peel the onion back further, you realize that Barnidge is performing more like a top tight end option than a streamer.

According to our Net Expected Points (NEP) metrics, which compares a player's performance to expectation-level, Barnidge ranks in the top five among tight ends with 20 or more targets.

Player Targets Reception NEP Target NEP Rec NEP/Target Success Rate
Barnidge 22 (14th) 25.59 (2nd) 21.35 (1st) 1.16 (1st) 81.3% (9th)

Barnidge is making the most of his 5.5 targets per game, securing two touchdowns and the highest Target NEP among tight ends. His Reception NEP per target also indicates he's been the most efficient tight end on the year.

He's already eclipsed his career high in receptions (seven seasons) with 16 catches for 235 yards. But can it continue?

If the Shoe Fits

Barnidge's 40 time of 4.61 at the combine in 2008 was actually better than other tight ends like Travis Kelce (4.65), Tyler Eifert (4.68) and Jordan Reed (4.72).

More importantly, the guy who our Editor-in-Chief, JJ Zachariason, said has a name that sounds like his "landscaper" on his Living the Stream podcast with Denny Carter, is the biggest target by far on a smallish Browns receiving corps.

In the red zone, Barnidge's 6'6", 250-pound frame and sure hands makes him a very reliable target for quarterback Josh McCown given what else the Browns have. Three Browns receivers -- Travis Benjamin, Andrew Hawkins, and Taylor Gabriel -- are 5'10" or under, and Dwayne Bowe and his $9 million guaranteed money doesn't appear to be coming back to relevance anytime soon.

McCown has thrown 90 passes in the past two weeks, meaning pass-volume is not a concern. Based on Barnidge's size and sure hands in the red zone and the Browns' struggles running the ball -- they rank 29th in Adjusted Rushing NEP per play --  Barnidge figures to continue to be a big part of the game plan each week.

Will Barnidge end up staying as a top five tight end this season? Probably not. However, in a diluted tight end pool past Gronkowski and a few others, Barnidge certainly can be a fantasy starter (and not streamer) on your team without it being a stretch or an interesting DFS play on a weekly basis.