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Arizona RB J.J. Taylor reportedly signs with Pats as undrafted free agent

Arizona running back J.J. Taylor tries to leap over Arizona State defensive back Demonte King (28) in the second half during an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Nov. 24, 2018, in Tucson, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

Arizona Wildcats running back J.J. Taylor agreed to sign as a free agent with the New England Patriots on Saturday following the conclusion of the 2020 NFL Draft, reports the Arizona Daily Star’s Michael Lev.

The 22-year-old Taylor joins a deep and diverse running back room that includes Sony Michel, James White, Rex Burkhead, Damien Harris and Brandon Bolden. Who would be handing him the ball is a mystery, as the Pats are now searching for a replacement for the departed Tom Brady.

Taylor was a productive member of head coach Kevin Sumlin’s backfield over the past two years and in 2018 earned Third Team All-American status as an all-purpose player.

He piled up 1,434 yards (5.6 yards per carry) and six touchdowns on the ground with 16 catches for 133 yards as a receiver.

His rushing numbers fell off from 255 totes in Taylor’s junior year to 148 for 721 yards in 2019, his senior season. He still scored five rushing touchdowns last year.

Taylor didn’t take long to make an impression at Arizona.

He took one combined carry in the Wildcats’ first two games his freshman year in 2016 before an injury pushed him up the depth chart for then-head coach Rich Rodriguez’s team. Taylor rushed for 168 yards on 18 carries in Arizona’s third game of the year against Hawaii, then added 97 yards on 19 rushes against a ranked Washington team the next week before a broken ankle ended his season.

Taylor returned to win the Pac-12 co-offensive freshman of the year honors in 2017, then in 2018 ranked second among all FBS players with 175.6 all-purpose yards per outing.

At 5-foot-5 and 185 pounds, Taylor ran a 4.61-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Draft Combine with a 34.5-inch vertical, 4.15-second short shuttle and 7.0-second cone drill.