When I first was asked to look at Mitch Barnett in focus, my initial reaction was “what for?”. As an analyst, I am trying to avoid doing that, and here is the result, my in depth look at Mitch Barnett and his prospects for the 2022 season.
Straight off the bat, I think we can be very comfortable Barnett is likely to play at least 70 minutes, with more often than not playing the full 80 minutes. The question is WHERE those minutes will be played, as Barnett is an above average edge back rower and middle. More than likely, the answer is a bit of both, which makes it hard to study from a fantasy perspective, but I am not one to shy away from a challenge.
Across his career, Barnett has never played more than 16 games of 70+ minutes in a season, but he has done that twice in the last three years, with the total sum of 70+ minute games in the three years prior being 19 games. As a result, I am going to look at Barnetts career in two stages, being 2018 and earlier, and 2019+.
What we see prior to 2019 from Barnett is a 70+ minute average of 49 points in 79 minutes (0.62ppm), with 3 tries across 19 starts (15.7%), and a base of 33.8 tackles and 117 metres.
In 2019-20, Barnett improves in his 70+ minutes starts to 50.3 points in 77.6 minutes (0.65ppm), with 6 tries in 25 starts (24%), and a base of 38.1 tackles and 102 metres.
Finally, in 2021, Barnett hits the sweet spot averaging 56.9 in 80 minutes (0.71ppm), with 3 tries in 16 games (18.8%), and a base of 35.4 tackles and 135 metres.
That said, there were some pretty distinct versions of Mitch Barnett in 2021.
In rounds 9-12, when both Fitzgibbon and Frizell were in the side, Barnett played only about 47.3 minutes per game and averaged 41.3 points. Yikes. In the other game Fitzgibbon and Frizell played together in round 18, Barnett went the 80 minute distance and scored 60, but Ponga only played 31 minutes and Klemmer only 23 minutes (injuries?), and he made a monster 43 tackles and ran for 130 metres against the Storm in a 48-4 drubbing.
In fact, the differences in averages between Barnetts averages with both Frizell and Fitzgibbon in the side is startling, averaging 57.4 without Fitzgibbon or Frizell in the side and only 49.8 with both of them available. So moral of the story, the first check box we need week one is Barnett listed on the edge, with no sign of Lachlan Fitzgibbon anywhere near the top 17 for the Knights to ensure the minutes are there for Barnett.
The other consideration we need to make in this 57.4 average is the lack of goal kicking, as Barnett will not be kicking with Clifford in the side. Barnett kicked 8 goals in that 13 game sample missing one of Fitzgibbon/Frizell, which shades him down to an average if 56.1.
Impact of the new rules, Barnett sees a neutral impact, with perhaps a slight bump with his offloads marginally improving the lost tackle bust points if all go to hand.
Is there upside? If he was priced at 54 points – sure. Unfortunately, Fanhub in their infinite wisdom have adjusted him up to a 56 average for some unknown reason, syphoning off the little value he did have.
If you were looking for some hope in the idea of purchasing Barnett, it has to lie in the ideal that the Knight are going to both struggle this year, and need leadership. Even so, Barnett struggled against sides that would go on to make the top 8, averaging 50.7 against other top 8 sides and 60.6 against bottom 8 sides (70+ min stats).
The Knights have a HORROR draw to start the year, facing all of the “Big 4” teams (Panthers, Storm, Manly and Roosters) in 2022 in the first 8 rounds, along with the Eels and Sharks who will be in the top 8 hunt this year. Realistically, Barnett may be the ideal week 14-15 purchase in 2022, getting through the early tough draw and dropping some cash before going into a much softer back end and being available for the second bye round as a dual position bench option for the run home.
If you are determined to buy Barnett, you are hoping for him to return to his 2019-20 tackle numbers (+3 on 2021 – this is possible with rule adjustment) and spend a larger portion of time playing in the middle without losing minutes. Given the injury to Brailey, this is very possible with a very specific bench make up for the Knights. You would be looking for something very specific like:
Starters: Saifiti Randall Saifiti Barnett Frizell Mann
Bench: Crossland Klemmer Sue/Saulo/Etc (as the second mid) Jones/Johns (as the BR)
Even then, I think you are best off waiting for the potential dip in price and purchase for the back end of the year after the Panthers in round 14.