Bailey Zappe put up historic numbers during his one season at Western Kentucky.
The quarterback followed offensive coordinator Zach Kittley to the Hilltoppers after three years at FCS Houston Baptist. Under Kittley's tutelage last season, Zappe racked up 5,967 yards and 62 touchdowns passing, both FBS records.
It was a stunning achievement for a player who entered the college ranks as a lightly recruited prospect. He's leaving them as one of college football's brightest stars, but there are still questions: What are his long-term prospects? What is his ceiling?
Sporting News looks to answer those questions as it examines Zappe's potential fits in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Who is Bailey Zappe?
Zappe was a relatively unknown quantity for the first three years of his collegiate career. The Victoria, Texas, product was the focal point of Kittley's Air Raid offense at FCS Houston Baptist.
But his mechanics, physical tools and release time were all average to decent, not elite. That might not be a problem when facing FCS-level competition, but what about in the FBS, where defenders are bigger and faster?
Well, Zappe gave FBS fans a glimpse of his talent when his Huskies took on Texas Tech in 2020. He picked the Red Raiders' defense apart to the tune of 567 yards and four touchdowns in a 35-33 loss.
The COVID-19 pandemic spelled the end of Zappe's redshirt junior season after just four games. Still, the numbers were gaudy: 15 touchdowns to one interception, 65.6 completion percentage, 159.3 passer rating.
He followed Kittley to Western Kentucky as a graduate student and proceeded to set the FBS record book alight.
What's next for him?
What are Bailey Zappe's NFL prospects?
Zappe (6-1, 215 pounds) is expected to be a Day 3 pick — SN's Vinnie Iyer has him going No. 122 overall to the Colts. He likely won't make much of an impact in Year 1. His game has clear limitations — his arm strength lags behind higher-profile QBs such as Malik Willis and Desmond Ridder, and his release can be labored at times, particularly under pressure. He ran a 4.88 in the 40-yard dash.
There are things to like, though. Zappe showed a good understanding of Kittley's playbook. Stuff like that tends to translate well at the NFL level, even if the physical skills don't quite match.
"Zappe has shown NFL teams that he knows the game and understands a lot of what he sees from defenses," ESPN's Jeff Legwold wrote. "And his NFL future will hinge on whether a coach believes there is enough to work with moving forward."
All of that is to say that Zappe has a far lower ceiling than some of the more prominent QBs in the 2022 draft class, but he may have the tools to be an effective backup, capable of playing here and there.
That's not the most glorious career trajectory, but compared to where he was as a freshman — an unknown playing for a college football minnow — it's a big step in the right direction.
Bailey Zappe college statistics
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