New England Patriots

Dec 3, 2021; San Antonio, TX, USA; Western Kentucky Hilltoppers quarterback Bailey Zappe (4) looks to pass in the second half of the 2021 Conference USA Championship Game against the UTSA Roadrunners at the Alamodome. Credit: Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports

The Patriots turned some heads on Saturday when they used the 137th pick (fourth round) in the 2022 NFL Draft to take Western Kentucky quarterback Bailey Zappe. With the pick coming just a year after the first-round selection of Mac Jones, there were questions about an over-investment at the position.

However, this pick proved to be relatively in line with the Patriots’ historic trends at the quarterback position. Over the last 22 years under Bill Belichick the Patriots drafted 12 quarterbacks. That averages out to just over one every two years, despite it not being a position of need for the significant majority of that time. Even with that, six of the 10 quarterbacks taken between Tom Brady in 2000 and Jones in 2020 were taken in the top 150.

Speaking to the media after the draft, Patriots director of player personnel Matt Groh was asked about that trend, which predates his involvement with the organization. In his answer, Groh highlighted the value of the quarterback position as a whole.

“At that quarterback position, yeah, one guy is only on the field, but you’d better have another good one or two or three or whoever it is in the system coming up, because you never know when those guys are going to be needed, and if you’re short at that position, you’re going to be in real trouble,” Groh noted. “Just like a college program that might bring in a highly recruited quarterback one year, you can’t really afford to skip a year. You’ve got to have plenty of talent there at that position, and we had an opportunity to add Bailey and tried to add some good value to the quarterback position.”

“There’s always value in having good players on your team, and Bailey is a good player and he’s going to add value to our team,” Groh said of the record-setting passer specifically. “It’s going to be up to him to kind of carve out what role that is here initially and then going forward.”

The Patriots now have built up significant depth at the quarterback position, with Zappe joining Jones, Brian Joyer, and Jarrett Stidham. Zappe and Stidham will likely compete for the backup job in camp. With Stidham entering a contract year, Zappe gives them a more long-term option behind Jones. The team also added former Miami quarterback D’Eriq King as a UDFA, although he is expected to be involved in a more multi-positional role.

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What the experts are saying about Patriots draft pick QB Bailey Zappe

  • With their final fourth round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, the Patriots elected to go with a quarterback, Western Kentucky’s Bailey Zappe. The move surprised some Patriots fans, coming a year after the team took Mac Jones.

    What in Zappe’s game stood out to the Patriots that made them want to take him in that spot? Here’s what the draft experts were saying about him heading into this weekend.

  • Lance Zierlein, NFL.com

    “Stocky pocket passer with eye-popping production in high-volume passing attacks. Zappe is a confident passer willing to challenge both man or zone coverages on all three levels. His release quickness and arm strength are both below average and he might not work with the anticipation or decision-making prowess to overcome those areas of concern. He’s unimpressive physically and lacks precision accuracy, so finding work as a backup might be a longshot despite the impressive career production.”

    (Source)

  • Joe Marino, The Draft Network

    “Bailey Zappe began his collegiate career at Houston Baptist where he became a starter as a true freshman in 2017. After a highly productive run at Houston Baptist (where he started through 2020), Zappe leveled up and transferred to Western Kentucky where he continued his incredible production and earned Conference-USA MVP honors while receiving an invitation to play in the Senior Bowl. Zappe is a decisive quarterback that executes the offense with clear command of the unit. While the offense at Western Kentucky featured plenty of manufactured throws, Zappe still showcased the ability to work progressions and hit throws with anticipation. He is poised and rhythmic in the pocket with a strong understanding of where his answers are on the field and he does a great job of getting the ball to his playmakers. He makes some highly impressive touch throws between zones and frequently drops the football in the bucket on vertical shots. When it comes to his projection to the next level, his overall physical package is modest. He doesn’t bring exciting size, athleticism, or arm talent to the table and his ceiling is limited. He isn’t immune to off-target throws and risky decisions with the football. In addition, his jump in competition and transition to a pro-style offense is notable. Zappe profiles as a backup at the next level.”

    (Source)

  • Tony Pauline, Pro Football Network

    Positives: Super-productive college passer who shows patience, goes through progressions, and looks away from covered targets. Natural looking off the safety, very decisive in the pocket, and quickly gets the ball out of his hands. Only takes off and runs with the ball when absolutely necessary. Displays tremendous pocket presence and overall awareness and remains poised under the rush. Effectively commands and controls the offense, knows where receivers are on the field, and takes big hits in order to get the throw away. Distributes the ball to all his targets. Displays a sense of timing on throws.

    Negatives: Possesses an average arm and cannot drive deep passes or get the ball through tight windows. Shortens throws with a three-quarters delivery. Must do a better job placing passes and throwing receivers free.

    Analysis: Zappe has been the toast of the town and led the high-powered aerial offense for Western Kentucky last season. Though he’s been incredibly productive on the college level, I see a lot of limitations in his game, as he’s a shorter and weaker-armed passer with average ability running with the ball. His understanding of the game and the position will help him capture a roster spot, though I never see Zappe being anything other than a third signal-caller in the NFL.

    (Source)

  • Nate Tice, Bleacher Report

    “Bailey Zappe has average height but a good build for the quarterback position. He isn’t an overwhelming athlete and has below-average arm strength, but knows exactly what he is and maximizes what he has.

    He consistently operates with very good timing and an understanding of the concepts being run. Zappe throws with anticipation (mostly out of necessity), getting the ball out well before his receivers break and giving them plenty of room to operate after catching the ball.

    He has very good accuracy on short and intermediate throws and maintains his accuracy when he has to throw out of structure. While he doesn’t have the arm strength to consistently drive the ball, he does throw a catchable deep ball by getting the throw out early and with loft. Zappe is more of an average athlete, but he is not a stiff. He plays with good footwork and balance from the pocket, enabling him to be in a constant throwing position.

    Overall, Zappe’s mental polish on a number of passing concepts combined with his pocket movement and anticipation on throws project him as a good back-up at the NFL level. His lack of size, arm strength and true athleticism limits his upside and viability to be an every-week starter. But his intelligence and timing would make him a nice addition for a quarterback room, and he could help get a team out of a game if an injury were to happen to their starter. However, those limitations would crop up with tighter windows and more athletic defenders at the NFL level if he had to see extended playing time.”

    (Source)

  • Tyler Sullivan, CBS Sports

    Strengths: Throws with great touch. Calm. Great leader pre-snap. Good pocket awareness. Has been very accurate and productive throughout his collegiate career.

    Weaknesses: Looks like he is pushing the ball at times with average arm strength. Limited mobility. Offense has been limited to short game. Below-average height. Not immune to making poor decisions with the football.

    (Source)

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