Patriots

Why the Patriots drafted QB Bailey Zappe in the fourth round

"He's got a lot of great traits that you want in a quarterback."

Bailey Zappe was selected in the fourth round of the 2022 NFL Draft by the Patriots. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

Quite possibly the most surprising pick the Patriots made in the 2022 NFL Draft came in the fourth round.

After shocking pundits and league executives around the league by selecting Chattanooga guard Cole Strange in the first round, New England selected Western Kentucky quarterback Bailey Zappe with its third pick of the fourth round.

The selection of Zappe was interesting because the Patriots, of course, selected quarterback Mac Jones with their first-round pick a year prior. Jones ended up having a strong rookie season, leading all rookie quarterbacks in the major stats while helping New England reach the playoffs.

But for the Patriots, drafting Zappe was simply about his talent. The former Hilltopper certainly showed that in college, breaking the FBS records for most passing yards (5,967) and passing touchdowns (62) in a season in 2021.

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Those were just two of the things that stood out to Patriots director of player personnel Matt Groh when scouting Zappe.

“Yeah, you put on the film of Bailey Zappe and it’s hard not to like him,” Groh said. “It’s a lot of completions, it’s a lot of touchdown passes, and it’s a lot of wins. This guy is a winner, the way he’s able to lead and command his team.

“He’s got a lot of great traits that you want in a quarterback. Most importantly, success, with the way he’s able to produce on the field and do what’s right for the team and get the ball to the playmakers, which he was fortunate enough to have at Houston Baptist (where Zappe started his college career) and at Western Kentucky.

“Coach [Tyson] Helton gave him a lot of responsibility, and he really did a great job for his teams.”

When Zappe arrives in New England, there won’t be a clear role for him on the field right away, which certainly was the reason for confusion behind the pick. Not only do the Patriots have Jones starting for the foreseeable future (and the team hopes for the long-term future), but they also have veteran Brian Hoyer backing him up and mentoring him.

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Groh reiterated though that adding Zappe was about accumulating talented players more than anything.

“Yeah, 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. “It’s going to be up to him to kind of carve out what role that is here initially and then going forward.  I think it might have been Mike last night asked a question about value, and there’s — whatever it is 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. 

“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.”

The selection Zappe wasn’t the only pick the Patriots used in the first four rounds at a position that wasn’t perceived as a need. New England selected South Dakota St. running back Pierre Strong Jr. with one of its fourth-round picks. It also drafted South Carolina running back Kevin Harris with one of its sixth-round picks.

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Like with drafting Zappe, double-dipping at running back, especially after the Harris pick, was about adding talent to the team.

“When you have an opportunity to add a really good player to your team, you want to capitalize on that,” Groh said. “Kevin under Coach [Will] Muschamp, under Coach [Shane] Beamer, has had a great career down there at South Carolina, and really like the way he plays and the things that he was able to do under those two different systems.

When you see the value in adding a good piece to your team at that position with the way those guys — you know, how physical this game is, you can never have enough good guys to hand the ball off to. This guy is a really strong runner, so we’re happy to add him to the team.”

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