No-Huddle Series: David Fales, Developmental Gem?

Photo by eschipul.
Photo by eschipul.

Can San Jose State quarterback David Fales develop more velocity on this throws like Drew Brees? Read on.

Eric Stoner at Draft Mecca is one of the first draftniks I know who watched David Fales and liked his game.  I do, too. When I talked about what I saw in the 6-1, 22o-lb.starter at San Jose State to a scout I know, his response was that Fales has a “niche market” – and the scout includes himself in that group.

RSP: I’m digging on David Fales as a developmental guy at QB. I think he can learn to drive off that front foot earlier and integrate it to gm

Scout:Hah, I love Fales as a developmental guy; he’s an enigma though at times.

RSP: There are times when he anticipates and then simpler plays where he hesitates. Then plays against Cover 3 where I’m scream at the TV – CHECK-DOWN! Still, I love that he wants to bust your ass if you blitz him – Love that attitude.

Scout: He’s got a good head on his shoulders and seems to have some instincts; he will sail throws trying to compensate for arm strength though.

RSP; I think his footwork is really off. I was watching him vs. Brees just 10 minutes ago on some similar throws. Brees’ front foot comes down well before he finishes the follow-through. Fales’ front foot doesn’t’ come down until the ball is nearly out. He doesn’t drive off that front leg and the ball sails and lacks velocity on some throws.

Scout: A lot of times the footwork/stride stuff is an issue for a guy who doesn’t have a feel for when to zip it vs use touch.

RSP: And I see that. Up the middle, he’s pretty good. He can get into the 40-yard range with some zip at times. He often struggles on these throws down the middle he has to climb and his feet don’t get settled. But on the perimeter? Sometimes he can’t deliver a good ball not much more than 30 yards.

Scouts: He has a bad habit of not driving balls outside; I saw it pretty clearly in Senior Bowl up in the crow’s nest with [deleted]. Yeah, he’s a pretty niche market guy, but I still like him well enough to say he could be a No.3 right away with solid potential.

Here are a few things that I’ve seen in recent weeks-months that led me to broach the topic of Fales. These are visual examples of some of the things discussed above.

Pocket Presence and Aggressive Mentality

This is a 1st and 10 pass with 9:23 in the first quarter from a 2×2 receiver, 10 personnel shotgun set versus the San Diego State Aztecs. The ball is at the 35 of the opponent’s left hash and the defense is playing a 3-3-5 look with no safety deep. Five defenders at at the line of scrimmage, including two edge rushers standing up outside the tackles.

On this play Fales takes a three-step drop looking left as the defense sends all five defenders to the pocket. As he finishes this three-step drop, his focus turns to the middle of the field. Fales’ eye manipulation and skill at working through multiple receivers during a drop back is a consistent part of his game.

As Fales finishes his drop, pressure form the edge takes an inside track to the pocket. Fales does a good job of climbing inside the defender and throwing the ball from the 42 of San Diego State’s left hash to the eight. The receiver is running a post breaking to the middle of the field.

Although the receiver drops this target – a pass that is catchable, it’s a low throw. What I like about the throw is the placement between the S and the CB. What’s disappointing is that if Fales delivered this ball with more velocity and on a line, he could have hit the receiver in stride beyond the saety and inside the corner for a touchdown.

This is the type of throw a starter at the NFL drives on a line for a score and has commentators drooling over the throw. If Fales can develop a better arm to drive the ball 40-45 yards rather only 34 yards, his pocket presence, field vision, and anticipation make him a promising player.

Here’s another example of Fales splitting the zone defenders after addressing pressure. This is a 3rd-and-12 with 1:55 in the third quarter from a 2×2 receiver, 10-personnel shotgun set with the ball at the 45 of San Jose State.

The Aztecs’ defense is once again using a 3-3-5 look. Fales takes a three-step drop facing four defenders attacking the pocket. He looks left, turns right, and hitches a step before throwing the crossing route that splits two defenders in zone for an 18-yard completion and a first down.

Extrapolate the velocity of this throw to the first highlight and you see the possibilities for Fales if he can achieve greater arm strength and velocity. If not, this range of 18-30 yards will be what he does best.

It’s a range that’s good enough for Fales to provide services as a valued backup – especially a player with his pocket presence, anticipation, and aggressive mentality. I love that Fales often sees the open field the blitz has left behind and he loves to get rid of the ball fast to take advantage of it.

When the play allows Fales to drop the ball in the bucket with distance and touch rather than distance and velocity, the San Jose State quarterback does this as well as any quarterback in this class. However at this point, Fales’ eyes often exceed his arm.

There are situations where I watch Fales forgo the check-down to a running back and he’ll  wait an extra beat to attack down field to the detriment of the play because he lacks the gun to hit his receiver on-time an in a tight window from that range. His tight-window accuracy is good, but when the velocity fails, Fales falters.

Development Opportunity: Footwork

One of the ways Fales misses receivers in the deep-intermediate and deep zones is overthrows. I’m sure this seems counter-intuitive after I just explained that Fales’ lacks velocity on deeper throws. However, overthrows are the result of a quarterback trying to push the ball with mechanics that aren’t tight enough to deliver the ball on a line.

This 1st and 10 with 13:50 in the game is a good example. Fales and the offices is in an 11 personnel shotgun set with the ball at the 17 of  from a 2×1 receiver,  11-personnel shotgun set against the Aztec’s one-deep safety over a 3-3-5 look.

San Diego State sends five men to the pocket – three from the left side as Fales drops looking to the middle. Fales sees what he wants and off the third step of his drop, he sets and delivers the ball from the right hash at the San Jose State 9 to the 48 of San Diego State – a 43-yard throw from release point to potential catch point.

However, the pass is thrown too far and one of the problems is the arc on the ball. Fales’ effort to throw the ball for distance sacrifices the low-arc needed to reach the receiver who is open by a step.

One of the problems is Fales’ feet as he delivers the ball. He’s not driving off that front foot before the ball leaves his hand. Instead, the ball is leaving as he’s still transferring his weight. Watch how his feet move with a rougher, stilted motion as the ball comes out.

Now compare Fales’ motion with a player like Drew Brees, a fine deep thrower and a guy of similar dimensions who got better with his velocity after leaving Purdue. My suggestion, refresh your browser each time to queue the Fales throw and Brees throw if comparing the two.

Brees’ time on his front foot while delivering the ball is much longer than Fales’. Brees is driving off that foot. Fales has to learn to do this with all of his throws.

If the rookie was forced to start in the NFL today, teams would force him to make plays beyond the limitations of his range and he would look like a sub par player. However, give Fales 2-3 years to integrate this footwork into every throw, add some muscle, and gain more understanding of more complex defensive looks, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if this prospect offers value to a team as a primary backup.

And if the arm strength gets a lot better, I wouldn’t be shocked if Fales knocks on the door of that NFL starter club.

For analysis of skill players in this year’s draft class, download the 2014 Rookie Scouting Portfolio – available to pre-order now. The 2014 RSP will available for download April 1. Better yet, if you’re a fantasy owner the 56-page Post-Draft Add-on comes with the 2012 – 2014 RSPs at no additional charge and available for download within a week after the NFL Draft. Best, yet, 10 percent of every sale is donated to Darkness to Light to combat sexual abuse. You can purchase past editions of the Rookie Scouting Portfolio for just $9.95 apiece.

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