Patriots Scout Jarrett Stidham’s Potential Replacement

Getty Bailey Zappe

Don’t count the New England Patriots out of the 2022 NFL Draft quarterback race. A member of the team’s front office recently traveled to take a look at an under-the-radar QB prospect named Bailey Zappe.

Could he ultimately be Jarrett Stidham’s replacement on the depth chart?

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The Patriots QB Pecking Order

Bill Belichick and Co. have Mac Jones entrenched as the team’s starting quarterback heading into the 2022 season. After Jones threw for 3,801 yards and 22 TDs in a maiden campaign that also saw him finish runner-up to Cincinnati Bengals star Ja’Marr Chase for Offensive Rookie of the Year, McCorkle’s hold on his spot on the depth chart is rock solid.

Likewise, veteran quarterback Brian Hoyer, who was recently re-signed to a two-year, $4 million deal, is sitting about as secure as any backup in the NFL. Thanks to Hoyer’s knowledge of the Patriots’ system and comfortability functioning as Jones’ mentor in a season after New England lost its offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels to the Las Vegas Raiders’ head coaching job, the 36-year-old could finish his career as a Patriot before potentially joining the coaching staff.

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Most teams like to have three quarterbacks on their roster, and the Patriots functioned that way in 2021. Jarrett Stidham was believed to be the guy set for No. 3 on the roster last year, but he was sidelined after back surgery most of the season.

The Patriots signed Garrett Gilbert to their practice squad last season for some depth and scout team reps. It’s possible he could return, but nothing is ever certain with the lower levels of an NFL team’s depth chart.

Potential Stidham Replacement Plan

The 2022 season might prompt New England to seek a more permanent backup for Jones, and perhaps one with a bit more upside as a potential injury replacement or trade bait down the road.

Stidham is still just 25 years old. He’s never had a real shot to start in the NFL and he probably isn’t going to get that opportunity in New England.

At this point, the best potential outcome for him and the Patriots would be for the fourth-year QB to play well during the preseason. That could potentially raise his trade value allowing New England to move him for a late-round pick. Because of his lack of experience (48 career passes in two seasons) and success (270 yards, 2 TDs and 4 INTs) in brief stints in the NFL, getting a sixth or seventh-rounder for Stidham at this point would have to be considered a win for New England.

Ideally, that sort of deal would create an opening for a young QB with less expectations to become a starter over the next two seasons. It would also give New England another late-round pick to add to its selections.

Patriots Scout Zappe and Others

Patriots scouting director Eliot Wolf recently attended a workout showcasing Western Kentucky Hilltopper prospects, per Senior Bowl director Jim Nagy. Wolf was there to watch prolific QB-WR duo, Zappe and Jerreth Sterns, respectively.

Zappe threw for 5,987 yards, 62 TDs and only 11 interceptions in 2021 as he obliterated the record books along the way. Sterns was his favorite target, and in light of the Patriots’ needs at WR, he might be an even more realistic target for New England.

At the workout, the Hilltoppers had three prospects with what is regarded as a realistic shot to get drafted, and per Pats Pulpit’s Bernd Buchamasser, New England could find a place for at least one of the trio.

“Realistically, only Zappe, Sterns and [DeAngelo] Malone are candidates to hear their names called in the draft,” Buchmasser said. “The Patriots might have a spot on the roster for all three of them, with the latter two in particular players to watch: Sterns’ abilities as a slot receiver and Malone’s potential on the edge make them potential candidates to be brought in by the team.”

Buchmasser leaves Zappe on the “long-shot” designation as he points to the young signal-caller’s height (6’0″) as a clash with the Patriots’ usual preference in verticality for their quarterbacks.

However, we’ve seen a bit of a shift in some areas when it comes to the Patriots’ evaluations of prospects in recent years. After all, Jones, Jimmy Garoppolo and Stidham, all guys the Patriots drafted, measure at 6’3 and under. That’s shorter than Tom Brady (6’4), whom New England would obviously have to be careful not to try to emulate with every selection at the position.

Perhaps, especially for the sake of taking a player the Patriots presumed to be a back-up, the height standard wouldn’t be as concrete. It is also important to note, Wolf’s dad is Pro Football Hall of Famer Ron Wolf, the former Green Bay Packers general manager.

The elder Wolf famously believed NFL teams should draft a QB every year, no matter the current personnel. That’s how highly he valued the position.

“Looking now from afar, the best quarterback in the game is a sixth-round draft choice [Tom Brady], and that should alert everybody,” Wolf said per Sports Illustrated’s Emily Kaplan back in 2016. “Then you look at what the Cowboys have accomplished with a fourth-round draft choice [Dak Prescott]. I mean, it tells you what you should do. Those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it.”

Is it too difficult to imagine his son might be bringing a similar approach to the Patriots now that he has more influence over what the team does in the NFL Draft?

Zappe Has Supporters Amongst NFL Talent Evaluators’s Randy Mueller, a former NFL general manager, recently raved about Zappe’s ability and accomplishments. While recognizing his lack of ideal height, Mueller seems to feel confident Zappe could be a performer on the NFL level.

“I think if he was two inches taller he [Zappe] might be vying for the first QB being considered in this draft,” Mueller wrote. “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 QBs who have been successful in the last decade in the NFL.”

Those pure QB qualities are the ones we usually hear associated with the Patriots’ desires for the position. while Buchmasser is probably correct, New England has been filled with surprises over the past two offseasons.

From uncharacteristically spending close to $160 million on free agents in 2021 to going the polar opposite direction in 2022, the Patriots and Belichick continue to be difficult to peg.

Taking a low-risk shot at Zappe and allowing him to slide into Stidham’s role as the third QB on the roster could potentially strengthen two positions for the Patriots.

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