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Quarterback Bailey Zappe Is A Mid Round Gem | NFL Draft

Updated: Jan 26, 2022

By Adam Aniba

This year's quarterback class has been labeled as subpar,compared to years past, especially outside the top 50 prospects. A standout signal caller might have fallen under the radar for some, but Western Kentucky's Bailey Zappe had a season for the record books that will have quarterback needy teams paying attention.

Zappe transferred to Western Kentucky from Houston Baptist University in December '20 after the season was cut short due to the pandemic. In only 4 games for HBU, Zappe registered 1,833 yds passing for 15 tds and only 1 int, earning the Southland Conference Fall Player of the Year Award.

Zappe would follow Offensive Coordinator Zach Kittley, who was the first to defect to WKU, along with his top receiving weapon in Jerreth Sterns (article). The effectiveness of Kittley's Air Raid System led to a record breaking season for the Hilltoppers' passing game with Zappe taking center stage.

Bailey Zappe

6'1" 220 lbs | QB | W. Kentucky

Draft Proj 3rd-4th Rd

Career Stats '17-'19 (HOU Bap Univ) 759/1262 8,171 yds 63 tds & 38 ints

2020 (4 games Canceled Season COVID)- *Passing- 141/215 1,833 yds 15 tds & 1 int

2021 (14 games WKU) *Passing- 443/640 5,967 yards 62 tds 11 ints & 3 rushing tds

*Bowl Game vs App State (14th game) 33/47 422 yds 6 tds (Broke single season TD record)


Zappe attended Victoria East HS in Victoria Texas, where he starred as a multi-sport athlete in basketball and track. During his junior and senior years, Zappe recorded 7,011 passing yards for 94 tds and ran for another 650 yards. Although Texas HS football is a haven for college scouts, Victoria East HS is one of the smallest schools in the state and Zappe received very little attention.

Houston Baptist University was the only school to offer Zappe a spot on their football team and his leadership was evident immediately. While at HBU, Zappe earned Southland Conference Commissioner's Academic Honor Roll all 4 years, while studying sports medicine. In 2017, Zappe started as a true freshman (10 games), experiencing his share of ups and downs; most of which were downs, with 5 tds and 10 ints.

In 2019, Zappe started 12 games for HBU, finishing with 3,811 passing yards 35 tds & 15 ints. Zappe's 35 touchdown passes led the nation and his 317.6 passing yds per game ranked 2nd in the nation. The HBU quarterback also led the nation in completions and attempts in '19 (46.67 att & 29.75 completions). Zappe would finish the season as a Walter Payton Award finalist, which recognizes the most outstanding offensive player.

Zappe's comfortability & chemistry with Offensive Coordinator, Zach Kittley was well documented and would carry over to WKU. After transferring to Western Kentucky for the 2021 season, the WKU QB and star receiver Jerreth Sterns perfected the AIr Raid passing game under Kittley. In fact, Zappe's first game at WKU was one for the record books vs Tennessee-Martin. In that matchup, he threw for 427 yards 7 tds with 1 int and connected with Sterns on 2 tds for 107 yds (15.3 ypc). Some questioned Zappe's arm strength, but he proved many doubters wrong with a dominant 2021 season for the ages.

Awards and Accolades

'21 Individual Awards

  • Manning Award Finalist

  • Earl Campbell Tyler Rose Award Finalist

  • Davey O'Brien Award Semifinalist

  • Walter Camp Player of the Year Award Semifinalist

  • CFPA National Performer of the Year Watch List

  • Maxwell Award Watch List(10. 6)

  • Boca Raton Bowl Offensive MVP

'21 Individual Awards (Weekly)

  • 2021 Boca Raton Bowl Offensive MVP (12/18)

  • Manning Award National Quarterback of the Week (10/30)

  • Manning Award Star of the Week (Four times– 10/16, 10/30, 11/13 and 11/20)

  • Earl Campbell Tyler Rose Award Honorable Mention (Seven times– 9/2, 10/16, 10/23, 10/30, 11/6, 11/13 & 11/20)

  • Davey O’Brien Award “Great 8” (Two times – 10/30 & 10/16)

  • Davey O’Brien Award “Davey Double 16” (10/9)

'21 Conference USA

  • Most Valuable Player

  • All-CUSA First Team

  • Offensive Player of the Week (Four times– 9/11,10/2, 10/30 & 11/13)

An Historic Season

Zappe set a FCS/FBS record in '21 throwing for 62 passing touchdowns. His 9.8 yds per pass attempt and his quick trigger, led big play after big play.

Zappe would shine in his last performance vs Appalachian State in the Boca Raton Bowl. The WKU QB threw for 422 yds and 6 tds enroute to a 59-38 win. During the onslaught, Zappe broke the single season record for passing yards and touchdowns, finishing the season at 9-5.

In the Air Raid, system Zappe displayed the type of decisiveness and anticipation teams covet. One of the most prolific NFL QB's, Pat Mahomes, played in the same system while at Texas Tech. With the NFL adopting more college concepts, Zappe adds a lot to an NFL QB room. His demand of the huddle also can't be understated.


  • Pocket awareness is his best attribute

  • Football IQ is evident with pre-snap reads/adjustments

  • Throws with touch

  • Not a scrambler, but when has to, displays impressive change of direction

  • Quick release and very accurate

  • Should thrive in a tempo a based scheme on the next level

  • Doesn't hesitate to go to his check-down

  • Effectively leads his receivers with crossing routes/slants


  • Arm strength is a mild concern

  • Level of competition will be a knock by teams searching for QB help

  • Long balls tend to hang in the air, won't get away with that on the next level

  • Not as accurate when throwing on the run

  • Average athleticism

  • Ability as a progression signal caller will be challenged, as he wasn't asked to do a lot of that in the Air Raid scheme

Final Thought

Zappe's record setting passing season at WKU continues to be on par with the high scoring product FBS/FCS schools are looking to employ. The WKU QB does all the little things well with immense attention to detail. Although his fast balls might not blow away NFL scouts, they'll get plenty of pinpoint fade routes and some of the most accurate over the shoulder passes they've seen. Zappe doesn't come without his setbacks as a passer, but in no way has he hit his ceiling as he has plenty of room for growth.

A quarterback who can effectively sell play-action, and show touch and accuracy in the short and intermediate passing game, is hard to find. The general consensus is that Zappe would be a career backup, but as we saw with another former WKU QB MIke White, now the backup with NY Jets, opportunities can arise at the blink of an eye (405 3 tds vs CIN '21). The ideal situation for Zappe, would be to go to a team that has a veteran presence, with an opportunity to sit for a year and potentially compete to start in year two.

*Games Watched- 9/2 vs TN-Martin, 9/11 vs Army, 9/25 vs Indiana , 10/2 vs Mich St, 10/30 vs Charlotte, 11/13 vs Rice, 11/27 vs Marshall , 12/3 vs UTSA and 12/18 vs App State (Boca Raton Bowl)

*Team Fits- WFT, DET, HOU, DEN, PITT, Saints, ATL, MIN

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