Patriots draft Mac Jones’ long-term backup in Bailey Zappe

BOCA RATON, FLORIDA - DECEMBER 18: Bailey Zappe #4 of the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
BOCA RATON, FLORIDA - DECEMBER 18: Bailey Zappe #4 of the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

The New England Patriots might not have had the most well-received draft after the first two days, but Bill Belichick did manage to get Mac Jones a new downfield threat in Tyquan Thornton. New England went off the rails early in this draft, and they continued to raise eyebrows on Day 3 of the 2022 NFL Draft.

New England started the fourth round in a relatively tame fashion, adding another feisty defensive back in Arizona State’s Jack Jones while drafting a small-school running back in South Dakota State’s Pierre Strong Jr. However, Belichick’s final pick of the first round caught many fans by surprise.

The Patriots used their final fourth-round pick on Western Kentucky quarterback Bailey Zappe. After a quality performance at the Senior Bowl in front of New England’s top brass, Zappe made a strong impression on this coaching staff. After his lone year with the Hilltoppers, it’s easy to see why.

Zappe’s numbers in Western Kentucky’s Air Raid were historic and looked like something out of Madden. Zappe was just 33 yards shy of being the first quarterback to throw for 6,000 yards in a season while breaking Joe Burrow’s seemingly untouchable record for touchdown passes in a season with 62.

The New England Patriots drafted Western Kentucky’s Bailey Zappe.

Zappe was not just stat-padding against bad teams. Zappe piled up 488 yards and three touchdown passes in a close loss against Michigan State while coming just short of upsetting Army and Indiana. You don’t put up those numbers without remarkable accuracy and between-the-ears play diagnosis skills.

Zappe’s deep accuracy ranks among the absolute best in this class, as his ability to spray the ball all over the field and fit the ball in tight windows is extremely impressive for someone that comes from a small school. Zappe has the natural talent to develop into a low-end starter in this league.

Zappe has some concerns about his stock. He’s not a fantastic athlete when forced off his spot, and his arm talent is generally regarded as below average. Zappe’s college offense might be more complex than most RPO-based systems, but it lacks a ton of similarities with what Belichick will ask him to learn.

While Jones is clearly the long-term building block that the Patriots are going to construct their offense around, Belichick knows the value of getting a high-end backup. If the worst happens and Jones needs to take some time off, Zappe can come right in and execute New England’s offense.