2016 Fantasy Football Draft Kit

2016 Fantasy Football: This Year’s Gary Barnidge


Gary Barnidge

Credit: Erik Drost

What if I told you before the 2015 season that Gary Barnidge would finish as the TE2 in standard scoring? You would’ve slapped me in the face and said “get a hold of yourself!” while drinking the Jimmy Graham in Seattle Kool-Aid.

Well, Barnidge surely did come out of nowhere to dominate. He caught 79 passes for 1043 yards and 9 TDs last season with subpar quarterback play in Cleveland. Many owners picked him up at a shallow position and rode him to league titles.

Okay, I won’t be able to find this year’s Gary Barnidge in that sense. I’m not just going to draw a name out of a hat filled with random 30 year old backup tight ends and hope I pick the right one. For those building depth at other positions in the middle rounds, they still must draft between the lesser known tight ends and need a flier to produce at top 10 value.

Who can be that super value at the tight end position this year? I find potential fantasy wreckage for a player in a completely new offensive scheme on the west coast.

This Year’s Gary Barnidge: Vance McDonald

Tale of the Tape

 Gary BarnidgeVance McDonald
Height6 ft 6 in6 ft 4 in
Weight250 lbs267 lbs
40-Yard Dash4.65 sec4.69 sec


Skill Sets

Neither guy has the high point ability like Rob Gronkowski (who does?) or the route running skills like Delanie Walker. What they do have is an above average mixture of all the skills needed. They can find holes in a defense, out-run linebackers in mid-field routes, and out-jump corners in red zone passes. Think of them as Greg Olsen-lite players with less target hogging.

I will say that, as seen by the tale of the tape and a video shown later, that McDonald has better after the catch ability with speed that is pretty remarkable for a tight end. Barnidge might have better hands (and feet), but McDonald makes up for it in that big play ability.

Overall Situation

Barnidge can accredit some of his success to his skills. However, he should give props where it’s due and thank his receiving corps in Cleveland… for being so bad last year and giving him targets. I mean, seriously, Travis Benjamin was the #1 wideout.

Good enough player, but something isn’t right about that and Barnidge took advantage of the opportunity. It certainly doesn’t hurt that the quarterbacks he had weren’t any good and looking for Barnidge to bail them out on jump balls.

McDonald has an almost similar opportunity. Torrey Smith is a veteran who can run some deep routes. Bruce Ellington is getting some hype as a #2 WR in the offense. But neither of those guys are going to demand targets. New coach Chip Kelly’s up-tempo offense favors possession type receivers.

Quick intermediate routes for 10 to 20 yard chunks are the name of the game. McDonald, as well as Ellington, should thrive in this setup if Gabbert, Kaepernick, or whoever is throwing the ball can learn quickly (hell, if Nick Foles and Mark Sanchez can do it in Philly…).



One difference here is the caliber of defenses we expect McDonald to face this season. Barnidge had a little easier of a time managing some big games against the AFC North defenses. McDonald gets to rival the best defenses in the business in the NFC West. However, it should be noted that two of McDonald’s biggest games in 2015 actually came against Seattle and Arizona.

Can he do that on a more consistent basis? That remains to be seen, but we do have proof that he can succeed in the worst of situations – bad 49ers offense versus good opposing defense. Besides, maybe losing by multiple TDs late in games to these better teams will allow the passing game to open up and become high volume.

Preseason Buzz

As I mentioned in the introduction, it will be extremely difficult to make a case for someone not on anyone’s radars. I wanted to be sure to advocate a player that I would actually draft. So the main difference between McDonald and Barnidge would be the preseason hype. Now, it’s not like ‘draft him in the top 15 amongst tight ends’ kind of hype, but hey, it’s still talk. I mean, it’s hard to avoid at least some hype after making a play like this one below in the first preseason game.

Like I mentioned earlier, his breakaway speed is on display here and Gabbert is already staring him down in obvious passing downs. This might cause McDonald to get drafted by some bozo in your league as their TE1, in which case I am not on board the hype train.


McDonald is someone who I am optimistic about in the new San Francisco offense. I mean, I would much rather draft someone with upside like McDonald outside the top 15 of tight ends than a Jason Witten or Austin-Sefarian Jenkins. He has the physical ability and the scheme, now he just needs to perform!

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We all got excited about tight ends in the Chip Kelly offense in years past (Zach Ertz), but where is the same love for McDonald? Is it lack of name recognition or the potential for disaster in SanFran this year? This goes back to Gary Barnidge last year – embrace the disaster! More disaster means more brainless targeting in the passing game for McDonald, just like Barnidge got in Cleveland when they were losing games.

There shouldn’t be a scenario where you draft him as your TE1, but I would be pumped to have him as a TE2 or backup TE. If he hits and you don’t need him, trade him to the inevitable team without a tight end for some other value. If he doesn’t succeed, drop him! That’s no sweat relative to the round you drafted him in. He is the rare ‘low risk, high reward’ player that could make (and not break) your season.

About Tyler Thompson

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