The NFL Draft is in the rearview mirror, and the rookie classes for teams across the league are coming into focus. The New England Patriots made a splash on draft weekend, specifically in the undrafted free agent market. The organization signed a large class of fifteen undrafted free agents. Among them is University of Arizona running back J.J. Taylor. While his spot on the team isn’t guaranteed, his chances of cracking the roster are quite high. Taylor brings an intriguing skill set to the New England Patriots and just might be able to make an impact.
How J.J. Taylor Can Impact the New England Patriots
J.J. Taylor is a fascinating player to keep an eye on as training camp (hopefully) begins in a few short months. He was incredibly fun to watch during his time at Arizona with his combination of quickness and strength. Although his skillset is a great fit for the NFL, Taylor still went undrafted.
The simple answer to why that happened is simple, his size. Taylor stands at just 5’6″ and 185 pounds making him one of the shortest players in the NFL along with Tarik Cohen of the Chicago Bears and Deonte Harris of the New Orleans Saints.
Despite the lack of size, Taylor still has the skillset to produce at the NFL level. He brings some excellent agility and quickness to the table, something to be expected from a player of his size. In addition to this Taylor showed he can run downhill and break tackles often, something that is a necessity to succeed in the NFL.
Taylor can also be effective in the passing game, something that is paramount for success as a Patriots running back. Overall his skillset mirrors that of former Patriots running back Danny Woodhead, which should make fans hopeful that Taylor will be able to carve out a spot on the roster for himself.
Obstacles in J.J. Taylor’s Way
The biggest mountain Taylor will need to overcome in his quest to make the final roster is the sheer number of running backs on the depth chart. The Patriots carried five running backs on their 53 man roster in 2019 and all five will be returning for 2020. It’s safe to say that Brandon Bolden won’t be much of a roadblock for Taylor as he’s almost exclusively used on special teams, but the rest of the running backs could certainly stand in Taylor’s way.
New England will likely feature a mix mostly made up of Sony Michel and James White, but Taylor could contend for the third spot on the depth chart. He’d likely be competing with veteran Rex Burkhead and second-year man Damien Harris. Harris is a likely lock for the roster, but Burkhead could be a surprise cut during camp.
If Taylor can impress during camp and the preseason, there’s a good chance he could make the team over Burkhead. Taylor brings some value both as a runner and pass catcher, and has some experience returning kicks. He could absolutely be a younger and cheaper option to Burkhead.
Final Outlook on J.J. Taylor’s Roster Odds
It will certainly be an uphill battle for J.J. Taylor to make the Patriots roster, but he isn’t a complete longshot. He does all the things you could want in an NFL running back, but the size remains a concern. He may be perfectly willing to run between the tackles and throw himself out there in pass blocking, but his size makes doing this consistently a challenge. Despite his physical shortcomings, the Patriots offer a great situation for a player like Taylor to flourish. He has a very versatile skillset which all teams, especially the Patriots covet. If the team likes what they see out of Taylor in the preseason, it is completely within reason to believe that we could see him playing, at the very least on special teams. At the very worst, Taylor could find himself on the practice squad waiting for an injury in the backfield to get his shot on the 53 man roster. Overall his chances of making the roster aren’t too great, but it shouldn’t come as a surprise if he makes the team.