If you were to ask Bailey Zappe what it means to be a ‘game manager,’ he’d respond swiftly with a description of the game’s greatest signal-caller to ever suit up under center in future first-ballot Hall of Famer Tom Brady. A leader, a captain, a driving force that operates under his speed, leads an offense at his tempo, is able to dissect a defense from the inside out… all qualities that coincide with being a ‘game manager,’ Zappe has entered the pre-draft process with a massive chip on his shoulder to prove that not only can he translate his historic success at the collegiate level to Sundays, but that the label of being a ‘game manager’ shouldn’t carry the negative aura that it has over the last few seasons. While you won’t place the moniker on the youth-infused talents of Justin Herbert, Patrick Mahomes, or Josh Allen, operating an NFL offense with a ‘manager’ approach has become a common lay of the land for a majority of the league’s most successful signal-callers, from Jimmy Garoppolo to Ryan Tannehill to Kirk Cousins. By no means are the aforementioned talents world-beaters or tout the ability to single-handedly carry a roster to a division title, let alone a Lombardi trophy, but for Zappe, and the skill set he could provide for NFL teams in search of juice under center, the undersized pocket passer could represent a diamond in the rough within a QB class in search of its headliner. A three-year standout at Houston Baptist, Zappe, an ‘undersized’ talent in comparison to pro standards at the position, lit the collegiate landscape on fire in his lone season captaining the Hilltoppers this fall. With 62 touchdown passes—a new FCS record—it was hard to turn Western Kentucky off on Saturdays throughout the season. While Zappe’s weekly showcase was impressive enough, his relationship with wideout Jerreth Sterns—who Zappe called a “diamond” to be excavated moving into the latter portion of this year’s draft—introduced one of the country’s premier quarterback-wide receiver duos in the nation this year. https://twitter.com/_RyanFowler_/status/1499061479248642052 One of the highest IQ talents in the class, while a multitude of reports have teams swooning over the potential to grab Zappe on day two or three, the importance of Thursday’s workouts and group throwing session may not be greater for anyone than it is for Zappe. An athlete that finds himself nose to nose with an opportunity in front of him with fellow classmate Matt Corral opting to not participate and Kenny Pickett’s public hand size concerns, the lane for the former Hilltopper to gain ground among the QB class, and assert himself as a potential player teams are willing to take a risk on and compete for snaps, has become a potential optimal scenario for organizations in need of fresh legs and a plentiful helping of juice within the pocket. While one year of success at the FBS level and a failure to meet thresholds from a measurables perspective could ultimately sway teams, an impressive workout and similarly spectacular showings during the interview process could have the opposite effect. Keep a keen eye on Zappe as a signal-caller to rise amongst league-wide draft boards as one of the most pro-ready talents in the class.
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