Is David Fales one of the top quarterbacks available in the NFL draft or destined to be a career backup? It depends on whom you ask.

"I'm a big fan," 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said of the former San Jose State star. "My personal quarterback evaluation of this class has David in the top five."

Harbaugh's opinion seems to leave him on a bit of an island, with most talent evaluators pegging the 6-foot-2, 212-pound quarterback as a mid-to-late round pick when the draft gets under way with Thursday's first round.

Fales, who plans to spend the draft with his family in his hometown of Salinas, will begin watching in earnest when the second and third rounds begin Friday. Rounds 4-7 are Saturday.

"I think Fales will go in the fourth or fifth round," NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said. "And I think he's one of those guys that will probably wear a baseball cap for 10 years and occasionally be able to compete for a starting job."

With names such as Johnny Manziel, Blake Bortles and Teddy Bridgewater capturing much of the quarterback attention in the draft, Fales is sitting in the familiar position of being overlooked.

It's no different from when he was under-recruited out of Salinas' Palma High, when he didn't stick at Nevada or when he had only one major college scholarship offer after two seasons of junior college ball.


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His circuitous journey is one of the red flags about Fales, along with an arm that some claim isn't strong enough. Mayock, despite that career backup evaluation, said there's a lot he likes about Fales.

"He throws with some anticipation and timing," Mayock said. "I thought the Minnesota game showed that he had enough arm strength to win. He got the ball the down the field. He pushed it down the field with strength and accuracy. Does he have a big arm? No. But he's a smart kid who understands the game."

Harbaugh, who carries a strong reputation for developing quarterbacks, said he didn't see the arm strength issues when Fales worked out at the 49ers' local pro day recently.

"You see a very compact throwing motion," Harbaugh said. "More compact than I saw during his career, but he was still throwing the ball 50-55 yards downfield. Throwing the deep comebacks, the outside lanes like he threw in college -- easily, accurately and on a line."

His strengths -- toughness, accuracy and timing -- have led to him being pegged as a system quarterback who could do well with a team that runs a West Coast style offense. Fales disagrees.

"I don't feel like I'm just a system guy," he said. "I've been able to at my junior college play in a whole different system. I was at Nevada for a little bit and then being at San Jose and being able to adapt to different systems. I think that's something I'm really good at doing, being able to adjust and understand the offense and play to its strengths."

Fales has been praised by 49ers general manager Trent Baalke as a "very smart football player," with "good arm talent." Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie attended Fales' pro day in March and said he displayed that he could "make all the throws."

Both local teams are likely to draft a quarterback over the next three days, and Fales has visited both facilities. He's also met locally with the Minnesota Vikings, New England Patriots, Chicago Bears and St. Louis Rams and visited the Green Bay Packers.

Fales acknowledges he might not be immediately ready to step onto the field. The speed of the game will be enhanced greatly in the NFL.

"I don't know if I'm ready immediately," Fales said. "It's a whole 'nother speed, and that's something you've got to adapt to. But I've been able to adapt at all levels, so I feel like, again at the next level, I can adapt and learn and pick up the game pretty quick."

As for the negative reviews, Fales doesn't deny that it provides him additional motivation.

"You could say, 'No, it doesn't,' but it definitely does," Fales said. "It definitely fuels the fire."

Follow Jimmy Durkin on Twitter at twitter.com/Jimmy_Durkin.

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