New England Patriots' Matt Groh on picking Bailey Zappe: Good to have another QB in system 'coming up'

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- One year after the New England Patriots selected quarterback Mac Jones in the first round of the draft, they surprised some by tabbing Western Kentucky quarterback Bailey Zappe in the fourth round Saturday.

First-year director of player personnel Matt Groh explained the team was taking a college-like approach.

"Just like a college program that might bring in a highly recruited quarterback one year, you can't really afford to skip a year," he said Saturday night at the conclusion of the draft.

The Patriots' selection of Zappe at No. 137 surprised some, in part because Jones is entrenched as the starter, and also because the team seemed to have other needs -- particularly on defense -- that were trumped.

Of the team's 10 draft picks, only three were defenders -- cornerbacks Marcus Jones (third round, No. 85) and Jack Jones (fourth round, No. 121) and defensive tackle Sam Roberts (sixth round, No. 200).

But Groh, in his first year leading the Patriots' personnel department under head coach Bill Belichick, said it would be a mistake to overlook the value of quarterback depth.

"One guy is only on the field, but you better have another good one, or two, or three, or whoever it is in the system coming up," he said. "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."

Zappe joins 14-year veteran Brian Hoyer and 2019 fourth-round pick Jarrett Stidham on the depth chart behind Jones. The Patriots will likely keep a maximum of three quarterbacks when they trim the 90-man roster to 53 at the end of preseason in the fall.

"There's always value in having good players on your team and Bailey is a good player. This guy is a winner ... he has a lot of great traits that you want in a quarterback," Groh said. "He's going to add value to our team. It's going to be up to him to kind of carve out what that role is here initially and then going forward."

The 23-year-old Zappe began his career at Houston Baptist and transferred to Western Kentucky last season, taking advantage of an extra year of eligibility after a COVID-shortened 2020 campaign. In helping the team to a nine-win season, Zappe threw 62 touchdown passes, breaking the single-season Football Bowl Subdivision record previously set by former LSU and current Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow.

Zappe said it was a dream come true to be drafted into the NFL. He said he looks forward to working with Jones.

"He's a phenomenal quarterback, as are the rest of the QB's in that room. I am really look forward to learning from all three of those guys, meeting them, and doing as much as I can to help the team. I am really excited about this opportunity," he said.

Zappe is the eighth quarterback drafted by the Patriots since 2010, tying them with the New York Jets for most in the NFL over that span, according to ESPN Stats & Information.