BEREA—Every year there are undrafted rookie free agents who make NFL rosters and go on to great NFL careers.
Tashaun Gipson was signed as an undrafted rookie from Wyoming in 2012 and was selected to his first Pro Bowl last season.
In 2014, Isaiah Crowell and Taylor Gabriel were key contributors to the Browns as rookies after not being drafted.
There are several undrafted rookies for the Browns having good training camps like Shane Wynn and Darius Jennings, but none any better than tight end E.J. Bibbs. The rookie from Iowa State wasn’t even signed immediately, but brought to the rookie mini camp in May on a tryout basis.
“He is doing well,” Mike Pettine said after practice recently. “It is a lot for him to learn because the unfortunate things for him was that it wasn’t just tight end. He had to essentially learn some fullback from the tight end spot when Malcolm (Johnson) went down.
“That is a lot to ask any player, let alone an undrafted rookie,” he said. “He has proven that he has an NFL skillset. We’ll see how it plays out with him.”
Bibbs caught Pettine and the other coach’s eyes back in the rookie minicamp. He has been productive throughout training camp and has carried that over to the playing field. He caught a touchdown pass from Johnny Manziel in the Orange & Brown scrimmage. He has caught five passes for 43 yards (8.6 avg.) in the first two preseason games.
Bibbs said he enjoys blocking after being almost exclusively a receiver tight end in college.
“It’s not bad,” he said. “Little physical, but it’s not bad at all.”
Bibbs was undrafted from Iowa State and with the loss of Jordan Cameron, Bibbs felt the Browns was a great opportunity for him.
“My agent told me this would be the best fit for me to come out here,” Bibbs said. “It just looked like a better opportunity for me.”
Bibbs is battling veteran tight ends Jim Dray, Gary Barnidge and Rob Housler for a roster spot, but being able to play fullback, as well, helps his cause. Bibbs is making the most of the opportunity with sixth-round draft pick Randall Telfer being unable to play due to a foot injury.
Bibbs (6-2, 258) caught 45 passes for 382 yards and eight touchdowns last year in 10 games in college. He didn’t have an answer when asked why he was undrafted.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I really don’t know. If you have the (answer), let me know.”
Bibbs said he never has doubted his ability to play at the NFL level.
“A lot of guys doubt themselves when they don’t get drafted,” he said. “That is not me. I just like working hard. My dad always taught me that. Just trying to go out there and make plays.”
Bibbs is confident in his ability to make plays and thinks that is his strength.
“Just going out there and making plays for the team,” he said. “Just showing my athleticism. Going out there and making plays and tell the team what I can do. Show the older guys and tell them I can make plays for the team.”
Bibbs said he’s not worried about where he stands on the depth chart, but is just trying to improve every day.
“I don’t think about that,” Bibbs said. “I just come out here to work.”