There wasn't a hotter "unheralded" quarterback in the online draft community last year than San Jose State's David Fales. He was completing 72.5 percent of his passes, had a 33-to-9 touchdown-to-interception ratio and led a San Jose State team to an 11-2 record and a Military Bowl win.
Impressive achievements in their own right, but they were all the more impressive when you consider San Jose State had six combined wins in their previous two seasons.
Fales, who started his collegiate career at Nevada before transferring to Monterey Peninsula College (and taking a summer class at the University of Wyoming), started the 2013 season learning an entirely new offense after head coach Mike MacIntyre left for Colorado and took offensive coordinator Brian Lindgren with him.
Fales has struggled thus far in adapting to the more pro-style attack of new head coach Ron Caragher. His completion percentage has dropped to 59.2 percent, and he's already thrown eight interceptions this season through six games, against the nine he threw all of last year.
Here is my scouting report on Fales.
Fales is listed at 6'3" and 220 pounds, but has been measured at only 6'1 and 3/8 inches—not ideal height for an NFL quarterback. The successes of Drew Brees and more recently Russell Wilson have some more willing to forgive his height deficiencies, but Fales lacks the athleticism, arm strength and skill sets of both Wilson and Brees.
Fales' hand measurement of 8 and three-quarters inches would also be very small for the NFL. The small hand measurement may account for his inability to grip and drive the football at times.
Despite his height Fales does possess a thick frame and should have no trouble taking hits at the NFL level.
This is another area where I find Fales lacking. When required to drive the ball across the field (for instance on the deep out) the ball hangs on him. He doesn't have the ability to muscle it in at the next level, and that’s really a deal-breaker for me.
He has average velocity in the mid-range game, but struggles vertically. In the NFL, defensive backs break on the ball much more quickly, and many of the passes Fales throws in college would be picked off at the NFL level.
While he does spin the football cleanly, you can clearly see by looking at his grip that his small hand size affects the strength with which he delivers the football.
Fales does extremely well with accuracy in the short and intermediate game, mostly placing the ball where only his intended receiver has a chance to make a play on it.
He uses appropriate velocity and touch, and attempts to hit his receiver in stride, allowing for more yards after the catch. For the most part he spins a clean catchable football with a tight rotation, though it will flutter on him the further he has to throw it. The deep ball consistently wobbled on him.
He does a good job of throwing to his receiver to about 20 yards, but beyond that is where he gets himself in trouble. Fales has the mentality that he has a stronger arm than he does and will try to push the ball to places he can't.
This season without the additional scheme benefits that former offensive coordinator Brian Lindgren used to mask this, Fales has found himself throwing more interceptions and incompletions because of it.
Fales exhibits natural bend at the knees and proper balance with his footwork in the pocket. He works to keep himself almost always in an effective throwing position. He commands an impressive feel in the pocket, subtly moves away from pressure and keeps eye level down the field.
He has a decent release and gets the ball out fairly quickly once the motion has begun. His offensive line is subpar compared to most of the teams he has faced, and he isn't given a lot of time to properly complete all of his reads, sets and throws. This occasionally leads to a throw off his back foot, something Fales doesn't have the pure arm strength to do with any effectiveness.
Not a highly athletic quarterback, Fales does have an impressive feel for the pocket, however. He’s not an improvisational guy and is not going to pick up yardage with his legs once the play breaks down. He does manipulate the pocket well and has learned to use the athleticism he has to buy himself time to get the ball down the field.
Fales was recruited originally to Nevada, where he was behind Colin Kaepernick on the depth chart and where quarterbacks are expected to be able to run the football. He's not Kurt Warner or Drew Bledsoe back there in terms of mobility, but he's no Robert Griffin III either.
Fales goes through his progressions very well and can work his way quickly across the field and back to his checkdown very quickly. A large part of this, in my opinion, is due to the lack of talent along the offensive line. Fales has learned he must read the field quickly or wind up sacked.
He displays natural timing and knows when the football needs to come out and rarely is late, even when throwing to secondary and tertiary targets. He is very safe with the football under pressure, preferring to throw to the checkdown when pressured.
Fales looks very comfortable in the pocket. He has a natural slide step he uses to avoid pressure. He is rarely flustered, despite playing behind an offensive line that consistently lets him down.
When given time, his mechanics are fluid. When the pocket collapses, he keeps his eyes up and down field and looks for the open man. He has a natural timer and feels the back-side rush pretty well knowing when to get rid of the football.
Fales is a kid who has certainly persevered through adversity. After being told at Nevada he was essentially not needed, he took the junior college route in an effort to hone his craft. He was then offered a nonscholarship roster spot at Wyoming, so he went and checked it out, but returned to junior college after seeing Wyoming already had their man in Brett Smith.
He was then offered at FCS school Indiana State and was set to go there when San Jose State, fresh off the loss of Tate Forcier, came calling.
I personally value quarterbacks that are adversity-tested, and not many have been through what David Fales has.
On the field you get a quarterback with a natural feel and intelligence for the game. He compensates in areas he's limited physically with what he has been gifted with mentally.
Despite a team with an offensive line that lacks across the board talent, receivers who consistently drop footballs and not much semblance of a run game, Fales manages to will his team to victory, elevating the talent around him.
Fales rode a lot of hype from the media, and draft communities last year, but that has normalized with his struggles and adjustments this year. His tools are middling, and he lacks the “plus athleticism” to overcome that.
When I look at Fales I’m reminded a lot of Chad Pennington in the way he played the game, a guy with a wealth of football knowledge, who has a middle of the road physical skill set, and will need a good team around him, and a horizontal scheme to be successful.
Fales is likely a mid round pick, I'd look at him somewhere around fifth round as a developmental guy, in an Andy Reid type offense. He has the accuracy, and with some NFL coaching and strength training may be able to work on driving the football to a tolerable degree.
I wouldn't count on David Fales winding up a franchise caliber quarterback, but after seeing what he's overcome, I wouldn't bet against him either.