"Gary Barnidge went from an unknown name to Cleveland's top target in 2015." -Narrator, NFL Top 100
Congratulations to Cleveland Browns tight end Gary Barnidge, who was ranked at No. 94 on the list of the NFL's Top 100 Players of 2016. This is the first time in Barnidge's career that he has made the list, as he was finally given the opportunity to be a starting tight end last year during his 8th year in the league. He led the team with 79 catches for 1,043 yards and 9 touchdowns. Despite the significant production in a contract year, he opted to extend his contract with the club for a relative bargain -- 3 years, $12.3 million.
The NFL's Top 100 list features the top one hundred players in the NFL, as chosen by fellow NFL players. The Browns had three players featured in 2015 -- S Tashaun Gipson (No. 67), LT Joe Thomas (No. 25), and CB Joe Haden (No. 23). The rest of this year's list is still being unveiled, but I had to guess, the only other player who should be making the list is Thomas again.
"Honestly, I didn't even know who Gary Barnidge was when I first saw him," said Browns C Cameron Erving, giving a testimonial for Barnidge earning a spot in the Top 100. "I didn't expect Gary to be that good to be honest. He makes it easy for the quarterback to find him. It's a 'big catch radius' -- that's what the quarterbacks call it. If it wasn't for Gary, we wouldn't have had as many points as we did have. We had three starting quarterbacks, and for all of them, he was their favorite receiver."
The other people with testaments to Barnidge's abilities include TE Marcedes Lewis (Jaguars), OLB Paul Kruger, and S Tyrann Mathieu (Cardinals).
"Gary Barnidge was literally under the radar," said Lewis. "Nobody really knew who he was until you just started seeing all these plays that he was making." Kruger cited one of those plays in particular, saying, "He's had a couple of catches that were really impressive. There was one in particular where the ball is juggling around, hits his leg, hits his helmet, and he still was able to come up with it."
The 91-100 slots have been revealed so far. The big news in that grouping was that Colts QB Andrew Luck was ranked No. 92, dropping all the way down from No. 7 the previous year.