Just like every other quarterback in the 2014 NFL Draft class, David Fales has a lot of positives in his game to go along with some negatives. He’s an underrated prospect from San Jose State who will be drafted late, regardless of which team takes him. If that team takes him for the right reason and that team isn’t a perennial cellar dweller, Fales could be a star in the NFL by 2016.
Let’s be clear up front: Fales is not ready to start in the NFL as a rookie and shouldn’t be drafted to do that. He needs two or three years on the bench learning from a quality starter and in that scenario, he could develop into the best passer of his class.
Fales is a unique prospect because he’s both raw and polished, as odd as they may sound. His mechanics are solid, he’s got good size and throws a tight spiral with good accuracy but the main thing that stands out when looking at his game film is untapped potential. Again, it seems odd because he has all the tools pro scouts want in a quarterback, which means his unique scouting report is actually a good thing, assuming he lands with the right team in the draft.
Fales is team captain material who leads by example and naturally knows just how vocal to be to get the most out of his teammates. He has an outstanding attitude and a competitive drive that makes him stand out in a good way. In other words, he’s not just another small-school quarterback who “likes to win”.
In the pocket, Fales has excellent, natural awareness and shows patience that often allows him to find the open receiver or wait for a receiver to get open. On the same note, his accuracy is by far the best of his class and he uses it — he knows how to throw receivers open in tight coverage and showed that against defenses as weak as Wyoming’s and as strong as Stanford’s.
Specifically, Fales has already mastered the back-shoulder fade, but doesn’t use it as often as some NFL quarterbacks like Aaron Rodgers. In addition, he knows how to use his top-notch accuracy to place the ball where only his receiver can get it on short, intermediate and deep throws, but doesn’t abuse that ability.
His footwork makes him very stable in the pocket and he has a great feel for the pressure and never gets rattled by it. He stands tall in the pocket and delivers precise throws under pressure with a quick, concise three-quarter release, but also has the superb ability to escape pressure and make accurate throws off his back foot, across his body and from other odd angles. The best part is he doesn’t rely on that, but knows how and when to use it, which is something that’s very hard to teach quarterbacks at any level.
Now Fales isn’t perfect; he does have a tendency to stare down his primary target, although he doesn’t force passes and the aforementioned patience allows him to get away with the telegraphing. This is one specific part of his game that is still raw and can easily be fixed with the right coaching and veteran example in front of him.
Other things that don’t get mentioned are Fales’ underrated attributes. The first is his elusiveness in the pocket: he’s not the fastest or most agile quarterback in the draft, but he is sneaky good at avoiding would-be tacklers while keeping his eyes downfield. His wherewithal to always keep looking for an open receiver is incredible, although it goes mostly overlooked.
The ball comes out very quickly when he changes reads, which offsets his telegraphing tendency and provides further evidence he can easily overcome this with proper coaching. This leads to the fact that Fales is used to playing in shootouts, which can be both a good and bad thing. On the plus side, he put up incredibly efficient numbers while playing in a wide-open, pass-happy offense, which proves he wasn’t just a product of his quarterback-friendly college system. In the modern NFL, he should be able to grow as a passer extremely quickly, especially if he plays in a somewhat balanced offense.
Fales is a gutsy player who throws like a polished pocket passer, yet his gunslinger mentality makes him dangerous to opposing defenses, which is something that can’t be taught. If he lands with a decent team (near .500 or above) that plans on developing him for two or three seasons, he could be a star by 2016.