Perry: Why did the Patriots draft a quarterback in the fourth round?


The Patriots have their franchise corner for the foreseeable future in Mac Jones. But even after Tom Brady had established himself as a championship-caliber quarterback, that didn't prevent Bill Belichick from investing in middle-round passers.

Belichick dipped back into the mid-round quarterback pool on Saturday, taking Western Kentucky's Bailey Zappe with pick No. 137 overall

Zappe checks in at just a shade over 6-feet and 215 pounds so he's relatively undersized, though he has big enough hands (9.75 inches) to function in the elements he may face in the AFC East.

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One AFC quarterbacks coach told NBC Sports Boston that Zappe has a strikingly similar game to that of long-term NFL backup Nick Mullens. Like Mullens, Zappe barely checks the size and arm-strength boxes for NFL teams. But, like Mullens, Zappe is considered smart, tough and accurate with the football. 

"He loves ball," the quarterbacks coach said. "Great dude. His arm strength is not good. That's rarely a deterrent for me. But his is close to being too soft. Still, I love the kid. His intelligence. His decisions. His accuracy. He can be a functional backup."

Former Saints and Dolphins general manager Randy Mueller seems to be higher on Zappe given he told Mike Sando on The Athletic Football Show that Zappe was his second-favorite quarterback in this year's class.

"The best thing he does for me," Mueller said, "is he processes information... He was really impressive in that he could manipulate coverage in the secondary and throw people open, and that's a really hard thing for college kids to do... I thought he was able to do this from the pocket and on the run. 

"I'm not saying this guy is Drew Brees at all. But I'm thinking stylistically, his throwing motion, his ability to get it out quickly, gave me a lot of similarities to where Drew was and how he did business."

Patriots draft pick Bailey Zappe set these insane college QB records last year

If you're wondering why the Patriots would invest in a quarterback late in the fourth round, maybe that's all you need to know. If Belichick feels similarly, why wait? League evaluators pegged him as a strong fit for New England prior to the draft. And at some point, a player's value on your board becomes too great to be able to pass on. 

That's what happened when the Patriots selected Damien Harris in the third round back in 2019, even though they already had Sony Michel. It's what happened when they selected Brady back in 2000, even though they already had Drew Bledsoe. 

Other reasons this pick doesn't come as a huge surprise? Jarrett Stidham is going into the final year of his rookie contract, and this would seem to indicate that the Patriots aren't high on him as a long-term No. 2. 

Of course Brian Hoyer is already on the roster as the No. 2, and he will be on the roster after being given $3 million guaranteed this offseason. But he can't be Jones' backup forever, and investing in Zappe now may give the rookie an opportunity to learn behind Hoyer as the No. 3 before potentially elevating on the depth chart in 2023.

Whether it was Rohan Davey in 2002 (fourth round), Kevin O'Connell in 2008 (third round), Ryan Mallett in 2011 (third round), Jacoby Brissett in 2016 (third round) or Stidham in 2019 (fourth round), Belichick was never afraid to spend a mid-round choice at quarterback with Brady already established. There are even more late-round selections at the spot, including Matt Cassel, Kliff Kingsbury, Zac Robinson and Danny Etling. It wasn't just Jimmy Garoppolo. 

Now Belichick has gone with a mid-round quarterback once again, just as Mac Jones is about to finish up his first offseason as a pro. It's too valuable a spot not to have an insurance plan for the upcoming season and beyond. If it somehow serves as additional motivation for Jones, as Garoppolo's selection apparently did for Brady, even better. 

One can question the logic, particularly with what look like roster needs on the offensive and defensive lines still lingering and talent remaining on the board at those spots. But this is what Belichick does. Has for a long time now.

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