We know what you might be thinking: The New England Patriots already have a young franchise quarterback who’s entering his second season. Why would they draft another QB one year later?
But based on the Patriots’ history, their decision to select Western Kentucky’s Bailey Zappe in the fourth round of the 2022 NFL Draft (No. 137 overall) shouldn’t surprise anyone.
Why not? Because they’ve done this before. A lot.
Back in the early 2000s, when Tom Brady was a Super Bowl winner ascending toward superstardom, the Patriots frequently used draft picks on developmental backups.
Mere months after Brady led New England to its first championship, the Patriots took Rohan Davey in the fourth round of the 2002 draft. One year later, they drafted Kliff Kingsbury in the sixth round. Two years after that, Matt Cassel in the seventh.
The Patriots later went on to draft Kevin O’Connell in 2008 (third round), Zac Robinson in 2010 (seventh), Ryan Mallett in 2011 (third), Jimmy Garopollo in 2014 (second), Jacoby Brissett in 2016 (third), Danny Etling in 2018 (seventh) and Jarrett Stidham in 2019 (fourth) before Brady departed for Tampa Bay.
Barring injury, Zappe has no shot of challenging 2021 first-rounder Mac Jones for the starting job this summer, but top backup Brian Hoyer turns 37 in October and Stidham is entering the final year of his rookie contract. The Patriots will be hoping Zappe — who projects as QB3 this season and likely will push Stidham off the roster — can either become the Cassel to Jones’ Brady or show enough promise over his first few NFL summers that they can flip him to a QB-needy team, a la Brissett to Indianapolis in 2017.
Critics can, however, debate the merits of selecting Zappe in Round 4 — a range that produces plenty of quality NFL contributors — rather than waiting to make this luxury pick in, say, Round 6, and using that fourth-rounder on an offensive tackle, defensive lineman, linebacker or slot receiver. The Patriots also chose Zappe over North Carolina QB Sam Howell, who was viewed as a fringe first-round prospect before tumbling to Round 5.
As for what Zappe will bring to the (practice) field in New England, he was phenomenally productive for Western Kentucky after transferring in from Houston Baptist (5,967 passing yards, 62 touchdowns, 11 interceptions) and is considered an extremely intelligent player. His score of 35 on the Wonderlic test reportedly was the best of any 2022 QB prospect, just beating out Howell’s 34.
One evaluator told NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport that Zappe is “insanely smart.” Rapoport also shared some other, rather humorous, quotes about the new Patriots draftee, relaying that one evaluator said Zappe would be his top-choice flag football QB and another said he “will be a great backup forever.”
In a conference call with reporters shortly after his selection, Zappe said he’s out to prove the Patriots made the right call by drafting him.
“I don’t really worry too much about the naysayers and the critics,” he said. “The Patriots believe in me, and those are the guys that — coaches and players and the organization as a whole — believed in me, and those are the guys I’m going to try to prove right, that the pick was the right one.”