J.J. Taylor played sparingly during his rookie season with the New England Patriots, but there’s already a lot of buzz surrounding the former Arizona Wildcats running back as he enters year two in the NFL.
After going undrafted out of Arizona, Taylor signed a three-year contract with the Patriots last May and played his way on to New England’s 53-man roster by early September.
Taylor had an uneven autumn in Foxborough, appearing in six games where he ran for a total of 110 yards on 23 carries. When Taylor got on the field, he occasionally showed off his blazing speed and agility, including a 28-yard run against Buffalo on Monday Night Football.
Beautiful blocking by the #Patriots springs J.J. Taylor for 28 yards on GY counter. Mason pulls to kick-out the DE, great climb by rookie LT Justin Herron to Milano, and rookie TE Devin Asiasi pulls up to Edmunds. Nice move by Taylor to beat the safety. pic.twitter.com/BJyvAfNh2D— Evan Lazar (@ezlazar) December 31, 2020
Illness and injuries kept Taylor on the sidelines for much of the season, though, leaving his full potential untapped.
As Taylor prepares to join New England for summer training camp, one NFL reporter projects the 5-foot-5 running back to be the Patriots’ breakout star for 2021.
Here’s what Adam Rank of NFL.com recently wrote of Taylor:
“The Patriots have a lot of running backs on their roster. Damien Harris is the guy who gets talked about the most (at least in fantasy football terms). Sony Michel is a former first-round pick. And let’s not forget about James White. There is a little buzz building for Taylor, though. Remember, even with so many backs in the mix, the Patriots always found a way to get the ball to Rex Burkhead, at least when he was healthy. Burkhead, who signed with the Texans this offseason, was kind of that do-everything back who could both run and catch. Don’t be surprised to see Taylor start to steal some touches and touchdowns that will leave your fantasy league-mates looking for him on the waiver wire. But the joke will be on them, because you’re reading this right now and will be ahead of the game.”
It seems the biggest hurdle for Taylor will be climbing up the running back depth.
Taylor’s value is not only in the backfield, however.
As our friends at Pats Pulpit point out, Taylor could become a go-to special teams option for New England.
“After already seeing considerable action as a return man at Arizona, the Patriots also let Taylor run back a few kicks during his rookie season. Heading into 2021, it would not be a surprise to see him get more opportunities. While the punt return role is in Gunner Olszewski’s All-Pro hands, Taylor appears to be among the front runners to earn the kickoff return role this season.”
First things first, Taylor has to make the 53-man roster, which is no guarantee.
New England’s training camp begins July 28.