The pre-draft preparation is entering its final phase, with pro days all over the country starting to wind down. On Thursday, Western Kentucky University held its workout and a member of the New England Patriots’ front office was present to watch the session.
Patriots director of scouting Eliot Wolf was among those present at the Hilltoppers’ facility in Bowling Green, KY., according to Senior Bowl executive director Jim Nagy. Among the prospects Wolf was presumably watching was one of the most productive quarterback-wide receiver duos in all of college football last year: Bailey Zappe and Jerreth Sterns.
Neither Zappe nor Sterns are projected to come off the board before Day 3, but they might be worth a late-round flyer to bolster New England’s depth at their respective positions. With that in mind, let’s take a look at them and the other noteworthy players among the 14 participants.
QB Bailey Zappe: Zappe rewrote the record books in his first season after transferring from Houston Baptist to Western Kentucky. The 6-foot-0, 213-pound quarterback earned Conference-USA MVP honors for an outstanding performance that saw him set new FBS records in passing yards (5,987) and touchdowns (62); he also completed 69.2 percent of his attempts and had only 11 interceptions. A five-year starter between two schools, Zappe’s experience and impressive résumé might just be enough to get him drafted.
WR Jerreth Sterns: Zappe’s favorite receiver in 2021 also joined WKU as a transfer from Houston Baptist earlier that year and delivered a record-breaking season: Sterns’ 150 catches and 1,902 receiving yards rewrote the C-USA record books, while his conference-leading 17 touchdowns were not too shabby either. While his smaller frame — he is listed at 5-foot-8, 183 pounds — and lack of elite athletic traits might scare some teams off, his proficient route-running and sure hands make him a potential late-round target for teams trying to bolster their slot receiver spot.
DE DeAngelo Malone: Possibly WKU’s top prospect this year, Malone was named C-USA Defensive Player of the Year in 2021 after recording eight sacks as well as 88 tackles and 16.5 tackles for loss. Measured at 6-foot-3, 234 pounds at the Senior Bowl, he projects as a situational pass rusher at the next level who possesses the necessary athletic traits and frame to potentially develop into an all-around edge linebacker.
S Antwon Kincade: A C-USA Honorable Mention in each of his last three seasons at WKU, Kincade offers plenty of experience and was a productive player for the Hilltoppers in 2021. Not only did he lead the team with 100 total tackles, he also registered a pair of fumble recoveries and an interception.
CB Omari Alexander: Appearing in all 14 games during his 2021 redshirt senior season, Alexander notched three interceptions. Like fellow defensive back Alexander Kincade, he projects primarily as a special teamer at the NFL level.
Realistically, only Zappe, Sterns and Malone are candidates to hear their names called in the draft. The Patriots might have a spot on the roster for all three of them, with the latter two in particular players to watch: Sterns’ abilities as a slot receiver and Malone’s potential on the edge make them potential candidates to be brought in by the team.
Zappe, on the other hand, appears to be a long-shot despite third-string QB Jarrett Stidham entering the final year of his rookie deal. While Zappe’s production is off the charts, his height is not necessarily what New England is looking for at the quarterback position.