The Browns attempted to utilize the fullback position last year, going between Ray Agnew and Kiero Small before eventually ending the year with no fullbacks. Under new offensive coordinator John DeFilippo, there will be a role on the roster for a fullback/H-back type of player. Let's take a look at two of the contenders for that job.
1. MALCOLM JOHNSON - PRIMARY FULLBACK / H-BACK
Malcolm Johnson is the early favorite for the job. Taken in the sixth round of this year's draft, Johnson is the only player on the team who has been designated as a fullback on the roster page. DeFilippo wants a player who can fit the versatile role that Marcel Reece has played in Oakland for a few years, and Kevin Jones of Browns.com explains why Johnson's college resume makes him a darn-near clone:
With Johnson playing mostly at H-Back against SEC defenses, the Bulldogs lined him up everywhere. Johnson displayed he was nimble enough to take shovel passes out of the backfield and a reliable enough of a route runner to be a dangerous threat in the red zone. Johnson caught 10 touchdown passes at Mississippi State.
"You see him in the backfield. You see him line up as a receiver. You see him as a tight end," DeFilippo said. "The versatility he brings will be something we look forward to."
The Browns are preparing Johnson for the gig, so now it's up to him to take advantage of it. Although the position might not be critical to the team, he can still walk in to a fairly significant role on offense, something that sixth round picks don't often have the luxury of doing in year one.
Final Roster Odds: 90%
2. E.J. BIBBS - COMPETING FOR FULLBACK / H-BACK / TIGHT END
An undrafted free agent out of Iowa State, E.J. Bibbs is bigger than Johnson and is officially listed as a "tight end" heading into camp. He will actually be a decent candidate to make the club as a fourth tight end, but, the Browns might also decide that they want that "fourth tight end" to really serve as the "fullback/H-back" type of player.
That's where the numbers game will come into play when GM Ray Farmer crafts the final roster. Of the players listed as a tight end on the roster, Bibbs appears to be the player who is mostly likely to compete with Johnson. In mid-June, head coach Mike Pettine offered some praise toward Bibbs, saying, "The (E.J.) Bibbs kid has had a real good spring for us. He’s kind of come out of nowhere."
Bibbs is known more for his receiving ability than his blocking skills, but that wouldn't be so much of an issue with Cleveland not planning to utilize the fullback as a blocking back. He doesn't have experience carrying the ball, though, which would seem to hurt him in a competition with Johnson. I'm putting Bibbs' roster odds at higher than 10% because of the fact that he could end up as a fourth tight end, along with Johnson making the roster (with him maybe even as the fourth running back).
Final Roster Odds: 20%
Feel free to discuss your thoughts on the fullback/H-back position below. Our poll asks which roster scenario you'd like the most when it comes to Johnson and Bibbs.