The New England Patriots’ decision to draft Bailey Zappe in the fourth round Saturday was about maintaining desired depth at the game’s most important position.
That’s the explanation director of player personnel Matt Groh gave when asked why the Patriots opted to take the Western Kentucky quarterback with the 137th overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft rather than using that selection to address a more pressing need.
“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 in his post-draft video conference. “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, 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.
The Patriots have followed this same blueprint throughout the Bill Belichick era, even when Tom Brady was an ascending, championship-winning superstar.
After striking gold with Brady in the sixth round in 2000, New England drafted additional quarterbacks in 2002 (Rohan Davey, Round 4), 2003 (Kliff Kingsbury, Round 6), 2005 (Matt Cassel, Round 7), 2008 (Kevin O’Connell, Round 3), 2010 (Zac Robinson, Round 7), 2011 (Ryan Mallett, Round 3), 2014 (Jimmy Garoppolo, Round 2) 2016 (Jacoby Brissett, Round 3), 2018 (Danny Etling, Round 7) and 2019 (Jarrett Stidham, Round 4).
“Just like a college program that might bring in a highly recruited quarterback one year, you can’t really afford to skip a year,” Groh said. “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.”
Zappe joins a Patriots quarterback room headlined by 2021 first-rounder Mac Jones, who finished second in NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year voting and guided New England to a playoff berth last season. The Patriots also re-signed 36-year-old backup Brian Hoyer to a new two-year contract last month and have Stidham entering the final year of his rookie deal.
Since Zappe’s draft slot makes him a virtual lock for the 53-man roster and Hoyer’s contract includes $3 million guaranteed, Stidham likely will be the odd man out on cutdown day, assuming he is not traded before then. The Patriots also reportedly signed Miami quarterback D’Eriq King as an undrafted free agent, but he’s trying to carve out an NFL role as a multipositional offensive weapon.
As for what drew Belichick and Co. to Zappe, Groh raved about the 23-year-old’s skill set and winning pedigree. Zappe threw 62 touchdown passes with 11 interceptions last season after transferring to Western Kentucky from Houston Baptist. He completed 69.2% of his passes and is renowned for his intelligence.
“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 and at Western Kentucky. Coach (Tyson) Helton gave him a lot of responsibility, and he really did a great job for his teams.”
In his introductory conference call, Zappe said he intends to prove the Patriots made the right call by picking 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.”