In fact, pinpointing a Raiders need is about as easy as tossing a dart at a dartboard — and the bull’s eye is the glaring one at quarterback.
As far as any of us know, free agent acquisition Matt Flynn could be the answer, or 2013 could be the second straight year in which Flynn is upended for the job by an unheralded rookie named Wilson. But what are the chances of that?
And far be it from me to infringe on the territory of BASG’s passionate Raiders blogger, who is on top of every angle surrounding the team; in fact, this is really more about one of my guys.
David Fales, the record-setting quarterback for our San Jose State Spartans, is generating a lot of buzz heading into the 2013 college football season, and it’s not just about what he’s expected to accomplish in his senior season — many people are starting to peg him as a legitimate first round talent in the 2014 draft. If the Raiders, as many of us suspect, chose to wait until 2014 to target their quarterback of the future, they should be looking right down 880.
For those of you who are new to the site or simply weren’t paying attention when I was borderline gushing over the kid last fall here at BASG, here’s what you need to know: Fales stands 6’2″, weighs 225 pounds and has been clocked under 4.8 in the 40-yard dash. After starting his collegiate career as Colin Kaepernick’s understudy at Nevada, the Salinas native transferred to Monterey Peninsula JC where he starred for two years before taking an offer from the Spartans.
Once on campus, he ascended quickly to the role of starter, broke all the important single-season passing records in school history (including a nation-leading 72.5 completion percentage) and led the Spartans to an 11-2 record and the best season in school history.
Sure, it’s one thing for a part-time blogger like myself to ham up his alma mater’s quarterback. It’s yet another thing for a scouting writer at the Sporting News to call him a “trendy sleeper,” or for the National Football Post to rank him their number one quarterback prospect. But when respected college football columnist Bruce Feldman is taking notice of Fales’ rising stock, it’s apparent that SJSU’s signal caller has the chance to be more than a just a mid-major hero.
Granted, a lot has to go right for Fales in 2013 to even approach these high expectations. Unlike last year when he was an unknown commodity on a team that had hardly any respect in the college football landscape, Fales comes into his senior season with a huge target on his back as he tries to lead San Jose State into a tougher conference with a new coaching staff and offensive system to play under.
And even if he maintains his high level of play, plenty of questions will be waiting for him come the 2014 combine and during the pre-draft process.
Scouts, while taking note of his high percentage of completions, seem to regard Fales’ arm strength as “good but not great,” determining that he tends to under-throw deep balls. Some also question whether he has the mobility and pocket presence to avoid an NFL rush (though from what I have seen, he’s shifty if not mobile, and definitely has the requisite toughness to play the position).
Of course, he’ll be dogged by the supposed lack of competition during college, coming from a traditionally weak program in a mid-major conference. I find that argument somewhat laughable, considering neither starting quarterback in last year’s Super Bowl played in a BCS conference. Other guys like Ben Roethlisberger, Bret Favre and yes, even Tony Romo, probably don’t think it’s a major concern.
What the Raiders should be paying attention to is what Fales shows them on the football field, and how he could potentially fit into their offense. As best I can gather, new Raiders offensive coordinator Greg Olson plans to focus on the power running attack behind Darren McFadden, utilizing elements of the West Coast offense along the way. Rather convenient, considering new SJSU coach Ron Caragher describes his philosophy much the same, declaring that he would bring a more pro-style offense to campus when he was hired last December. Caragher intends to focus on that same power running game, while he plans to shed the pistol in favor of a traditional shotgun formation and take advantage of Fales’ high number of completions.
Fales may not have the big-time arm that Olson also apparently covets, but as the NFL — and the Raiders in particular — have learned in recent times, having a rocket-launcher under center doesn’t always guarantee success. More often than not, a highly accurate passer who spreads the ball around, limits the turnovers (33 TDs to nine interceptions in 2012) and has the toughness and humility to command a huddle and lead an offense are more vital than simply being able to stretch a defense.
If both he and Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater replicate their 2012 efforts in 2013, you can almost guarantee Bridgewater will be the most sought-after quarterback in next year’s draft (and quite possibly the Heisman trophy winner). If the Raiders get a shot at him, it probably means they had a bad season but are potentially set for a decade at quarterback.
But whether the Raiders make strides in 2013 or they are back selecting in the top five of the draft, they should be able to solve their woes at quarterback once and for all. And it would behoove the Silver and Black to pay close attention to the underdog passer right in their own backyard.