Western Kentucky quarterback Bailey Zappe was one of the more surprising picks made by the New England Patriots in the 2022 NFL Draft, and that is saying something. After all, incumbent starting QB Mac Jones will not be going anywhere after joining the team as a first-round selection last year and playing some impressive football as a rookie.
Zappe will obviously not compete with Jones for the starting gig, but bringing him in still makes sense from the club’s perspective. After all, he has some value as a long-term backup option to be groomed behind and, in a way, alongside Jones.
“Bailey is a good player and he’s going to add value to our team,” Patriots director of player personnel Matt Groh said about him on Saturday night. “It’s going to be up to him to kind of carve out what role that is here initially and then going forward. ... At that quarterback position 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.
“You never know when those guys are going to be needed. 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.”
Coming off an ultra-productive season with the Hilltoppers that saw him set new FBS records for passing yards and touchdowns, Zappe was projected as a late-round pick. He eventually became the fifth quarterback off the board just like Jones last year.
The difference, however, lies in the 122 picks between them. Nonetheless, Zappe should be seen as a lock to make the team this year. However, he knows he has to show some marked improvement to also have some staying power.
“There’s a lot of room to grow. Being a part of this organization, there are going to be opportunities for me to get to that point and develop as a QB,” he said.
“I think some of the strengths are, I love the game of football, I love learning about the game, my knowledge of the game, continue working on accuracy ball placement like every QB wants to work on. Being a part of this organization, I’ll be able to learn from so many coaches and players. I am excited to get in the QB room and get to work with them.”
At the moment, New England has four quarterbacks under contract. Jones is the undisputed QB1, with veteran Brian Hoyer staying put on a two-year deal earlier this offseason. Fourth-year backup Jarrett Stidham, meanwhile, might be the odd man out with Zappe added to the mix.
And with the 36-year-old Hoyer on the back-nine of his career as well, the door appears to be open for Zappe to take over as Jones’ primary backup sooner rather than later. He seems poised to do that.
“I am going to come to work every day and get one percent better. That is how I look at it,” he said. “The Patriots believe in me, and those coaches, players, and organization believed in me and those are the people I’m going to try to prove right, that this pick was the right one.”