After taking a month to review the 2013 NFL Draft, it is already time to look ahead to the 2014 class. In fairness, I will do my best to focus on senior prospects for the next few months and move to juniors/redshirt sophomores when the time is right. I am only taking pre-season evaluation notes for now, focusing on where prospects win and where improvements can be made. Therefore, treat these posts like rough drafts and not final opinions.
Notes for Clemson QB Tajh Boyd
There’s a good amount of variety in San Jose State’s offense from a passing standpoint. David Fales splits his time under center, in shotgun, and from the pistol. There are a couple of times where the play is designed for Fales to move the defense with his feet or as a running “threat,” whether it be the read option or rolling out, but usually the Spartans keep Fales in the space where he does his best work: the pocket.
Fales is going to be a bit ahead of the curve in terms of progressions and the variety of throws he is asked to make. In a multiple receiver offense, Fales consistently checks a variety of targets, whether they be on crossing routes, outside breaking patterns, vertical shots, or checkdowns. In today’s college football, some might think this offense is fairly vanilla, but the assortment of route concepts, combined with Fales’ efficiency, leads to success.
I’m a sucker for quarterbacks who have Fales’ kind of pocket movement. He is far from a running threat, but somewhat similarly to Tyler Wilson from last year’s class, Fales consistently shows the ability to dip his shoulder and step up in the pocket to evade pressure. He can also move laterally and keep his distance from pursuers. Once again, let me stress that Fales isn’t a runner, but he can absolutely buy himself time. Once at the top of the pocket, Fales continues to keep his eyes downfield and is even willing to test vertically after resetting.
Now, that is a long list of positives when considering Fales’ pocket presence, but most importantly is that the senior rarely gets antsy and almost never drops his eyes to look at the bodies moving in front of him. He trusts his protection. When forced off his spot, Fales continues his efficiency, hitting receivers on a string in stride. Ideal velocity isn’t there, but Fales’ placement is great, and he doesn’t mind drifting off his back foot to buy an extra tick of time in order to create separation.
There is going to be a long discussion about Fales’ “arm talent,” and more specifically his velocity. I am not a huge fan of the “arm talent” term and would rather break down specific areas where quarterbacks show promise and where they could improve, but I understand and accept the conventional meaning. As previously stated, Fales’ placement is great. He isn’t afraid to throw in windows between the numbers or on bucket throws to the outside shoulder along the sideline. As with any thrower, there are plays that show the contrary, but as a whole Fales is solid in this area. The quarterback’s arm strength will be debated, however. On numerous occasions, defensive backs attempted to undercut Fales’ throws at the catch point. A couple succeeded in deflecting the pass, but most times they resulted in completions. He certainly doesn’t have a cannon beyond 15 yards, but Fales picks and chooses his battles in that section of the field. This same argument was made in regards to Matt Barkley, but at this time I don’t think Fales is as limited in that department.
Let’s say Fales does have just enough velocity on downfield throws at the NFL level. If that is ultimately my evaluation, than I have no worries about his ability in that area since he appears to be a knowledgeable and heady player with great placement. That combination can overcome a borderline trait.
He won’t fit every system, but Fales can be incredibly efficient thanks to poise and presence, both in the pocket and when surveying defenses. Right now, I definitely believe he is a quarterback teams can win with, but the next question is if he can elevate the talent around him and bring the offense/team to the next level. I am not ready to give my thoughts on that just yet.
Where He Wins
Fales is a cerebral pocket mover, showing very little attention to bodies moving around him. He can be effective in tight spaces before taking a hit and has the footwork to bounce off of his back foot and create operational space if needed. Placement, touch, timing, and anticipation are all above average qualities. Those four skills can compensate for other deficiencies.
Areas Of Improvement
Velocity can be improved in some cases, but many times quarterbacks have already plateaued in that area by their final season of college football. It isn’t vital that Fales improves in this area, but it would be welcomed. If not, the San Jose State passer needs to show he can transcend his offense and elevate the skill of his supporting cast, which is easier said than done.