After the 2012 season, there was a substantial amount of excitement for San Jose State quarterback David Fales. Fales had helped lead the Spartans to a huge season that ended with a spot in the top 25 to finish the season. Fales came into the 2013 with a relative thud considering how well he played in 2012, but it is important to keep in mind just how many changes the Spartans have deal with between the two seasons.
It took time for Fales to adjust to losing his left tackle and tight end to the NFL in David Quessenberry and Ryan Otten, but Fales also lost his top wide receiver, Noel Grigsby, for much of the season due to injury. On top of everything else, Fales and the rest of the Spartans lost their head coach, Mike McIntyre, who took the job at Colorado. Fales did not forget how to play quarterback but there were some adjustments that had to be made and chemistry that had to develop.
Fales does not have an overwhelming arm but what he lacks for in brute strength throwing the football, he makes up with in his accuracy, timing and decision making. He has really quick feet and can make his arm look stronger than it is, but fit is going to be critical for the success of Fales and there are going to be a lot of teams that are not going to be interested based on their offensive scheme or the climate. Fales projects as a top 100 pick but it would not be a surprise to see a team that loves his fit take him at the end of the second round and he does have the potential to be a starting quarterback in the NFL.
Vitals & Build
Fales is listed at 6’3” 220lbs and has a good build for the quarterback position both in his upper and lower body. As with all quarterbacks, the question will be if that height is accurate and if not, how far off it is. He looks like he will hit that magic number of 6’2” and he will probably add a little bit of bulk between now and the draft.
In terms of his ability to drive the ball down the field, Fales is relatively average. He can throw it about 50 yards but it will be a rainbow style throw that will look beautiful in the air, but does give opponents time to adjust and make plays on the ball, which is a factor when it is the difference between single coverage and allowing a safety to come over and help. If he can improve as a senior and in the NFL, it will make a big difference for his long term viability.
In terms of zip, Fales can put some speed on the ball in that 15 and under area of the field and shows the ability to fit passes in NFL windows. He does not have an elite fast ball but this is not something that appears like it will hold him back going to the next level, but there are times when he should be using it and does not, which puts the ball at risk.
Accuracy & Touch
This is where Fales really excels and in both areas. Fales has shown the ability to put the ball on his receivers, lead receivers, and takes the next step. There are times when a pass can only fit in one spot in order to be a completion and Fales will make those throws. For instance, a receiver is crossing the middle but is moving towards a defender in zone, Fales will put it on him or just behind him to allow his receiver to make the catch and keep it away from the defender. He also does this when it comes to arm strength and adjusting passes to give his receivers the best chance to make a play on the football. Furthermore, if Fales is going to miss with his accuracy, it is usually airing on the side of caution and a pass that no one can catch rather than the defender. On occasion, Fales will aim the ball too much as opposed to just throwing it.
This also applies to Fales in terms of touch. For the most part, he knows when to zip the ball in and when to use touch. Fales can throw the same pass to the same spot half a dozen different ways; all of which are effective. He shows the ability to throw touch passes that have the arc to get over defenders but makes the necessary adjustments to his timing so the ball does not arrive late. It still arrives on time to where the receiver can catch it and try to get yards after the catch. Occasionally, he will misjudge and throw touch passes where he should be zipping passes, but on the whole, his judgment in this area is excellent. As a result, Fales throws an extremely catchable ball for his receivers.
This year has had a number of throws appear to be inaccurate and some of them are. Much of this appears to be a result of Fales just not having the chemistry this year with his weapons that he did in the past. There are throws where he and the intended target just do not appear to be on the same page and the ball appears to be off target as a result.
Mechanics & Footwork
Fales has a short throwing motion that comes out cleanly and easily. His throwing motion is also effective on the move and when he rolls out, he can get the ball out quickly and accurately. Though he does not have a huge arm in terms of strength, he never looks like he is straining. The ball comes out largely the same way but with a longer step with his front foot.
Fales has solid footwork and his feet move relatively quickly when it comes to dropping back, setting his feet and throwing the ball. San Jose State had Fales run a good mix of plays from under center as well as the shotgun so he is accustomed to making drops, setting up, and throwing the ball on time and in a good rhythm. He also has experience running play action, turning his back to the defense, and doing it with effective footwork. He does not waste motion or steps and makes an economical use of his feet.
Fales does a good job of feeling the pressure around and maneuvering in the pocket to create opportunities to make throws and find good throwing lanes. If he has the opportunity, he will step up in the pocket and find a receiver, but he also works well laterally. He is also able to roll out when he feels pressure. He has trouble when he is forced backward and there are times when he will take sacks he should not but he does a good of protecting the football when he gets hit and his size and strength serve him well in this area. He does e a good job of keeping his eyes down the field as he moves within the pocket or rolls out so he can take advantage of opportunities when he sees them.
Decision Making & Anticipation
This is another area where Fales does a good job. Not only does Fales do a good job of finding open receivers to throw the ball and rarely forces bad throws, but he also shows the ability to use his eyes to open up receivers by manipulating the defense. It also appeared as though Fales had a good understanding of what defenses were doing fundamentally and was able to pick them apart. It also seemed as though he ran plays with a large number of receiving option and being able to make his progressions and find the right guy. These should only improve with more experience.
Fales does an excellent job of throwing the football on time and has demonstrated that he has the ability to throw receivers open. However, the Spartans offense under Coach McIntyre did use a lot of curls, hitches, and comebacks to which made it easier for Fales on when to throw the ball, but he rarely threw passes late.
This year has shown just how much chemistry he had with players like Otten and Grigsby last season. Not only were those players talented that could make plays, but especially with Grigsby, they seemed to have an incredible amount of chemistry and seemed to know what the other was thinking at a given point in time. Fales can definitely throw with anticipation and throw receivers open, but this year just how much work he puts into getting on the same page with his receivers. So much of this season seemed to be working to get there and at times is still clearly not there. If Fales can get in a situation where he has time to develop that chemistry, he can make things happen and put them position to make big plays.
Fales is not a guy who is a big threat to pick up yards with his legs but he shows the ability to roll out, maneuver within the pocket and if he has to, pick up yards with his legs. He seems to have more mobility than he showed most of this past season but he was an excellent pocket passer so it did work for him. Fales is not a runner and no threat to run read-option but he is hardly a statue either and can escape pressure when he feels it coming. The types of systems he can run range from a system like the one Green Bay runs to what the Rams are trying to implement to the Saints or what the Eagles are trying to put in place.
The best fit for Fales is a West Coast or Horizontal Based Offense. Fales excels at underneath routes, timing plays and plays that demand for accuracy. He can keep defenses honest with his ability to stretch the field but he needs to continue strengthening his arm in terms of his ability to push the ball down field to make him more viable in this area. Fales also excels spreading the ball around and finding open guys so they can make plays. His accuracy, timing and instincts as to how and where to make throws should serve him well in that type of system.
Though not an indication of where his career will go, Fales is reminiscent of Brady Quinn when he was coming out of Notre Dame and when he was a promising young quarterback in the NFL. Fales appears to have the same throwing mechanics, arm angle, arm strength, footwork and even the same body type at 6’3” 220lbs; all good qualities. They wear the same number (10). Brady Quinn had the same haircut in college. They also come into the NFL with plenty of experience throwing to receivers, backs, and NFL quality tight ends. Both of these guys come off as exceptionally prepared quarterbacks but do not have the ideal physical tools to be an NFL quarterback. Fales appears to have a slightly stronger arm in terms of both throwing the ball down the field and with zip on his passes, but can hopefully continue to work to improve this in the NFL.
David Fales is not someone who is going to win people in workouts. He is just not that type of quarterback at this point. Where he is going to impress is on tape and when he gets into the interview room with his knowledge of what teams are doing and how he works to throw his teammates open and what seems to be an advanced knowledge of breaking down defenses. His arm strength is going to hurt him with some teams and fit is critical for him to reach his potential in the NFL. Fales has ability in any system, but it is tough to maximize his ability trying to push the ball down the field in ugly weather. Nevertheless, Fales projects as a top 100 pick and could end up going at the end of the second round to a team that likes his feet with the potential to be a starter in the NFL.
Some of the film used in this scouting breakdown was provided by the good folks at draftbreakdown.com