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Darkhorse In Disguise

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By the end of the 2013 season, every NFL fan will know the name of San Jose State QB David Fales. Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images.
By the end of the 2013 season, every NFL fan will know the name of San Jose State QB David Fales. Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images.

In the 2012 and 2013 NFL drafts, we saw both ends of the quarterback prospect spectrum. There were three quarterbacks taken in the first eight picks in 2012 and four in the first round, including a once-in-a-generation prospect whom the Indianapolis Colts were lucky enough to draft. In 2013, the young gunslingers weren’t nearly as easy to come by. What took one round one year took four rounds the next. And although there will probably be a sleeper or two emerge during the 2013 season, it’s safe to say the 2013 QB prospects won’t be in the same class as the 2012 QBs.

So how about 2014?

One of the hottest names going into the 2013 college football season and 2014 draft is David Fales, a 6-foot-3, 220-pound quarterback from San Jose State. Fales had an excellent first season with the Spartans in 2012, throwing for 4,193 yards, 33 TDs and completing 72.5 percent of his passes, which was best in the nation. He was MVP of the Military Bowl after a two-TD, 395-yard performance. But as we all know, when it comes to quarterbacks, there’s a lot more to look at than just statistics.

Fales was redshirted his freshman year at Nevada in 2009 behind a 6-5 flamethrower named Colin Kaepernick. He didn’t see much of a fit in Nevada and wound up at Monterey Peninsula in 2010. In two seasons there, Fales was top 10 among junior college QBs in TD passes, passing yards, passing efficiency, completions and completion percentage.

Watching Fales at San Jose State in 2012, he displayed a mastery of the back shoulder throw, a popular weapon for an NFL QB. He’s got above-average arm strength, good escapability, can throw extremely accurately on the run, and his best attribute is his quick release. San Jose State runs a pro-style offense with a lot of shotgun and pistol formations, a lot of four- and five-wide sets. He showed great command in an offense that is a proven NFL staple, and he will only get better at it. He showed tremendous poise throughout the season, something which can’t be taught. Fales is also a very good decision-maker, but he’s not perfect.

He needs work on his deep ball. It’s not that he lacks the arm strength needed for a 55-yard bomb, it’s his footwork that needs tweaking. With some deep throws, he’ll look mechanically sound but there are times when he throws off his back foot and floats one up for the safety to snatch. He threw nine interceptions, which isn’t bad, but most of them could have been avoided. He’s smart and confident and thinks he can make any throw. That’s where he gets into trouble. But after starting only one FBS season and looking the way he does, I’m not worried about his mechanics. They will improve with more playing time and some coaching.

When I watch Fales play, I see Aaron Rodgers with his quick release and great accuracy on the run. They’re also very alike in stature. He’s got a long way to go before being compared to Rodgers as a player and a leader, but his style of play is very similar.

There are four other quarterback prospects who are very good and will be competing with Fales as the top QB in the 2014 draft: Teddy Bridgewater of Louisville, Aaron Murray of Georgia, Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M and Tajh Boyd of Clemson. But let me make this much clear: David Fales is the best quarterback in the 2014 class. He has the smarts, he has all the tools, and with more experience in the 2013 college season, he should and will be a first-round pick in 2014.

David Fales is an NFL quarterback with the potential to be a very good one. He may be a darkhorse, an underdog story for the 2014 draft. But after the 2013 season, he won't be anymore. He’s the real deal.