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April 26, 2014
Harbaugh calls San Jose State's Fales a Top 5 quarterback


The top 5 quarterbacks in next month's draft? Gather up all the rankings available and Johnny Manziel, Blake Bortles, Teddy Bridgewater, Derek Carr and Jimmy Garrapolo likely are on that list in one order or another.

But Jim Harbaugh, whose reputation for choosing and developing passers - some of them obscure at the time -- is well-earned, believes a local, less-heralded product deserves Top-5 ranking: San Jose State's David Fales. "I'm a big fan," Harbaugh said after watching Fales work out on Friday. "My personal evaluation of this (draft) class has David in the top five."

Fales completed 64 percent of his passes last season for nearly 4,200 yards. He had a memorable game in a shootout against Fresno State in which he completed 37 of 45 passes for 547 yards, six touchdowns and no interceptions. It turns out 49ers general manager Trent Baalke attended that game, which was held only 11 miles south of the 49ers headquarters and its new stadium.

"I like a lot of things about David," Baalke said Friday. "He's very composed. He's a very smart football player. You look at him statistically. He's won a lot of games. He won a shootout against Fresno, which I happened to be at. He's got good arm talent. He can make all the throws. He's very accurate, especially in the short to intermediate game. There's a lot to like about him."

The biggest question about Fales has been his athleticism and his ability to throw the deep ball. Harbaugh, however, did not seem to be concerned.

"You see a very compact throwing motion today, more compact than I saw during his career," he said. "But he was still throwing the ball 50, 55 yards down field, throwing the deep comebacks, the outside lanes like he threw in college, easily, accurately and on a line. We talked a little after the workout. I don't see any deficiencies that way."

Harbaugh famously graded little-known quarterbacks like Tony Romo and David Garrard higher than the consensus top picks at the position, such as Joey Harrington, when he was a low-level assistant with the Raiders. He has seen Eastern Illinois' Garrapolo - another quarterback with a compact throwing motion - in person this year and also attended the workout for Virginia Tech's Logan Thomas. Fales and Thomas are expected to be taken in the middle rounds of the draft, which is where the 49ers are most likely to pounce on one as well.

Fales wasn't the only quarterback at the 49ers' "local" pro day on Friday. Vanderbilt's Austyn Carta-Samuels (Saratoga) and Delaware State's Cory Murphy (Santa Clara) also took part.

-- Matt Barrows


Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.


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