New England Patriots

TUCSON, AZ - SEPTEMBER 01: Running back J.J. Taylor #21 of the Arizona Wildcats rushes the football during the college football game against the Brigham Young Cougars at Arizona Stadium on September 1, 2018 in Tucson, Arizona. The Cougars defeated the Wildcats 28-23. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

By Matt Dolloff,

“Little Dion?”

Patriots rookie running back J.J. Taylor must be a peanut if he’s a “little” version of Dion Lewis. Now with the Giants, Lewis emerged as a dynamic all-purpose back in three seasons in New England, despite standing at 5-foot-8.

Bill Belichick and Ivan Fears, the Patriots’ endlessly quotable running backs coach, have as strong a track record as anyone at getting the most out of players who can, in Fears’ words, ‘play bigger than their size.’ That’s the key for Taylor, an undrafted rookie out of Arizona who stands at a Danny Woodhead-esque 5-foot-6.

But like the aforementioned Woodhead, and other unheralded players who don’t have the mythical “NFL size” for their position, Taylor has some intriguing traits that had Fears comparing him to Lewis. If that’s his ceiling, perhaps the Pats have found another hidden gem in a talented player that teams discriminated against based on height.

“Little Dion, that’s what he is. Little Dion,” Fears said of Taylor. “Exciting, fun … he’s got some great hurdles to overcome and the kid battles his butt off to try to get that done. We’re very pleased with what we’ve seen from him, we really are. We’ll see how far he can carry it.”

Patriots running backs coach Ivan Fears is hoping J.J. Taylor is the next Dion Lewis. (Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports)

Patriots running backs coach Ivan Fears is hoping J.J. Taylor is the next Dion Lewis. (Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports)

What has Fears particularly seen in Taylor that he saw in Lewis, especially being an even smaller version?

“Have you seen him out there? (laughs),” Fears said. “Same quickness, same suddenness. He’s a hell of a pass catcher, guy’s got great vision, ah there’s a s**tload of stuff that’s good about him. He’s got to learn to play bigger than his size.”

Perhaps it’s a good thing for Taylor that the most important thing is to unlock that larger-than-life presence that Lewis projected. Especially in his electric 2015 season, when he averaged 10.8 yards per catch and 4.8 yards per carry. It’s not how you measure, it’s how you perform.

That’s why Taylor could go one of two ways. He could be the next Dion Lewis, the next Danny Woodhead. He could also be the latest in a line of smaller, speedier backs that didn’t work out, like Ralph Webb, D.J. Foster, or Jeff Demps, to name a few.

But it sounds like the talent is there. And so is the delightfully profane excitement from his position coach.

Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at