The New England Patriots added another running back to their team this offseason in undrafted rookie free agent JJ Taylor from Arizona.
The New England Patriots have signed former Arizona running back JJ Taylor, who is the smallest draft prospect coming into the NFL this offseason.
At 5’5 and 185 lbs, Taylor is accustomed to being the smallest player on the field. He packages a traditional old school element as a running back that is very reminiscent of Frank Gore, who currently has the third most rushing yards all-time in NFL history.
Taylor was able to showcase himself at the NFL Combine and impressed many people. He ran the 40-yard-dash in 4.61 seconds, put up 19 bench press reps, had a vertical jump of 34.5 inches and a broad jump of 118 inches, while also running the 3-cone drill in an even seven seconds and running the 20-yard shuttle in 4.15 seconds.
Prior to playing at Arizona, Taylor was named Mr. Football for the state of California — which is awarded to the state’s top player — after producing over 2,000 yards and scoring 44 touchdowns during his senior year. Taylor received handfuls of scholarship offers before committing to Arizona.
While at Arizona, Taylor was instantly one of the most productive players on his team and in the Pac-12. He earned Offensive Freshman Player of the Year in 2017 and First-team All-Pac-12 in 2018.
After being a redshirt freshman, Taylor went on to finish his four-year collegiate career with over 3,000 rushing and receiving yards and 38 total touchdowns along the way.
Taylor is an impressively consistent and extremely balanced runner. In 2017, he rushed for 847 yards (5.8 yards per carry) and scored five touchdowns while also scoring two more through the air.
He then followed up in 2018 with his best season by rushing for 1,434 yards (5.6 yards per carry) and scoring six touchdowns.
And last season in 2019, he finished the season with 721 yards (4.9 yards per carry) and scored five touchdowns.
Taking it one step further, if you were to just use Taylor’s stats from the last three years and not include his first season, he would still have over 3,000 career rushing yards, have averaged 5.5 yards per attempt, and have scored 16 rushing touchdowns. He was also heavily used as a returner and totaled 3,750 scrimmage yards in his career.
It’s fair to say that the only reason that Taylor did not get drafted is due to him being undersized.
But many undersized players find success playing in New England due to the way the Patriots run their offense and utilize their running backs as receivers, returners, or on special teams.
We’re still unsure of how the Patriots intend to use Taylor, as there seems to be plenty of depth to the current running back position with Sony Michel, James White, Rex Burkhead, Brandon Bolden, and Damien Harris all on the roster. It’s also worth noting that the Patriots took Harris in the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft and essentially made him a healthy scratch last year.
Considering the New England Patriots are going to be testing the waters with a new starting quarterback for the first time in 20 years, they might be willing to become a more run-heavy offense throughout the process of transitioning into having a new quarterback under center — which Taylor would be a nice addition to.
Whether Taylor is able to make the final roster, become a practice squad player, or even if he gets cut, he has the skills and is fully capable of being a weapon and an asset in the NFL.