According to a former NFL general manager, the New England Patriots walked out of NFL Draft with one of the best quarterbacks in the entire draft class.
The Patriots selected Western Kentucky quarterback Bailey Zappe late in the fourth round at No. 137. The pick seemed rather surprising, especially considering the fact New England just drafted quarterback Mac Jones in the first round last year.
One guy that was not shocked by the pick? Randy Mueller.
"I wasn't surprised. At that point in the draft, you're trying to identify traits with players that maybe not everybody sees" said Mueller, who has 35 years of experience in NFL front offices. "And I think Bill [Belichick] and his crew have done as good a job at that as any, across the board at all positions."
Mueller, who began his front office career in 1983 as an assistant in pro personnel with the Seattle Seahawks, served in the front offices of several NFL teams. Over the course of 35 years, he also spent time with the New Orleans Saints in 2000, Miami Dolphins in 2005, and the San Diego/Los Angeles Chargers in 2008.
He was named NFL Executive of the Year in 2000 while with the Saints.
Mueller liked Zappe before the draft, via this ringing endorsement in early April:
“I think if he was two inches taller he might be vying for the first quarterback being considered in this draft," he said. "He is accurate. He is comfortable in the pocket. He has plenty of arm strength to go with anticipation and, for my money, can make all the NFL throws needed to be successful. I see similarities with other 6-foot-tall quarterbacks who have been successful in the last decade in the NFL.”
And after New England nabbed him, Mueller continued the praise.
"When you get to the third day of the draft, I think it's too much to turn your back on, regardless of position," Mueller said. "Everybody seems to want to fill needs throughout [the draft], but I'm more about getting the best group of players and not bypassing good players to fill needs. And I think Bailey was one of those guys, although I don't think everyone sees that."
Mueller, who now runs Mueller Football Advising Services, studied all quarterbacks in the draft.
"I'm not looking for 6-foot tall quarterbacks, per se, but Bailey plays a lot bigger than that," he said. "The fact he has the vision and anticipation from the pocket. I'm not saying he's Drew Brees or Russell Wilson or anything, but ... he trends more in that line just because of that anticipatory skillset."
Zappe's production was outstanding in 2021 when he completed 69 percent of his passes for 5,967 yards, 61 touchdowns, and only 11 interceptions. His stellar season earned him the NCAA’s all-time leader in single-season passing yards and passing touchdowns. Zappe is Western Kentucky’s third quarterback drafted in the last seven years He had transferred to Western Kentucky from Houston Baptist, following his offensive coordinator, Zach Kittley.
The Patriots selecting Zappe should not come as a surprise as head coach Bill Belichick has been known to draft additional quarterbacks.
Here is a look at all the quarterbacks the Patriots have selected in the draft since picking Tom Brady in 2000:
- 2002, fourth round: Rohan Davey (LSU)
- 2003, sixth round: Kliff Kingsbury (Texas Tech)
- 2005, seventh round: Matt Cassel (USC)
- 2008, third round: Kevin O’Connell (San Diego State)
- 2010, seventh round: Zac Robinson (Oklahoma State)
- 2011, third round: Ryan Mallett (Arkansas)
- 2014, second round: Jimmy Garoppolo (Eastern Illinois)
- 2016, third round: Jacoby Brissett (North Carolina State)
- 2018, seventh round: Danny Etling (LSU)
- 2019, fourth round: Jarrett Stidham (Auburn)
- 2022, fourth round: Bailey Zappe (Western Kentucky)
Albeit going from Conference USA to the NFL is easier said than done, Zappe definitely landed in the right spot in New England. Getting mentored by Jones and Hoyer is one thing, but having Belichick as his coach could really benefit his growth. With the amount of success, many of Belichick's drafted quarterbacks have had throughout the league, it is tough to think of a more suitable destination for the rookie QB.