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Saquon Barkley won’t rule out skipping bowl game

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Some college players wouldn’t even consider skipping a bowl game to protect their NFL draft stock. Others, however, won’t dismiss out of hand the possibility.

Count Penn State running back Saquon Barkley in the latter group.

“I would have a hard time doing it,” Barkley, one of college football’s top returning players, told Sports Illustrated. “But I’m not going to sit here and say I would never do it. I don’t know. I could be in a situation next year where I have close to two broken ankles, God forbid, or something going on in my upper body and I can’t play in a game if I’m considering playing in the NFL.”

If Barkley’s remarks come across as lacking certainty, forgive him. After all, there are all kinds of factors, which don’t unveil themselves in May, that would weigh heavily in such a decision. Is the player regarded as a high draft pick? Is the player fully healthy? Is a championship at stake? And how might college teammates react to an early exit? These are questions Leonard Fournette and Christian McCaffrey had to answer for themselves before skipping their bowl games, and their draft outcome (chosen Nos. 4 and 8 overall, respectively) was none the worse for it. This year’s most prominent example of a player whose draft value fell resulting from a bowl injury was Michigan TE Jake Butt, who was a fifth-round selection after tearing an ACL in the Orange Bowl.

According to at least one NFL personnel director, top players like Barkley will now be all the more tempted to make the choice Fournette and McCaffrey made.

Barkley (5-foot-11, 223 pounds) ran for 1,496 yards for the Nittany Lions last year with 18 touchdowns. The school has clocked him at a blazing 4.33 40-yard dash, and he enters his junior year this fall. He’s got a long way to go before even making the decision about whether to turn pro, much less whether to sit out a game before doing so.

But for now, he’s leaving all options open.

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Bears draft Mitchell Trubisky, 49ers take Solomon Thomas after teams swap Nos. 2, 3 picks

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The San Francisco 49ers and Chicago Bears swapped the Nos. 2 and 3 picks in the NFL draft, and the Bears used the second selection on quarterback Mitchell Trubisky of North Carolina.

In swapping spots with the Bears, the 49ers get Chicago’s third- and fourth-round picks (Nos. 67 and 111) in this draft and a third-rounder in 2018.

With the third pick, the 49ers chose defensive lineman Solomon Thomas of Stanford — the highest pick of a Cardinal player in any draft. He played just two seasons at Stanford.

Trubisky told ESPN after his selection that he had no idea the swap was happening and that he did not get a call to alert him to his selection.

“I didn’t think I was going to get picked until the commish made the call,” he said. “It was crazy. It’s a dream come true. It’s as surreal as it gets.”

Trubisky, who had just 13 starts in college, is the highest drafted quarterback by the Bears in the common draft era and first quarterback taken by the Bears since Rex Grossman in 2003.

The Bears had a clear need at quarterback after the club released Jay Cutler. However, most expected them to wait to address the position until Day 2. Veteran Mike Glennon, who the Bears signed in free agency, is scheduled to earn $16 million guaranteed in 2017.

Bears general manager Ryan Pace announced earlier in the offseason that Glennon is the team’s unquestioned starter, but Glennon’s long-term future in Chicago now looks bleak.

Meanwhile, recently hired 49ers GM John Lynch selected a player from his alma mater and, believe it or not, a former classmate.

For the Niners, Thomas will be expected to instantly improve a defense that finished last in the NFL in 2016 in yards allowed, rushing yards allowed and was fifth-worst in the NFL in pressures generated per dropback.

The 49ers have now used their top pick in each of the past three drafts on the defensive line, having selected Arik Armstead in 2015 and DeForest Buckner last year. Thomas has been projected as a left defensive end in coordinator Robert Saleh’s 4-3 defensive scheme with the versatility to move to the three-technique defensive tackle spot in passing situations.

Thomas could also theoretically play the right defensive end spot, also known as the “Leo” or “Elephant,” the position where the best pass rusher is expected to line up. At his pro day in March, 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said he believed Thomas was capable of playing all over the defensive line.

“I believe he can line up probably anywhere inside that he wants,” Shanahan said.

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Niners strongly considering a quarterback with draft’s No. 2 pick

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PHILADELPHIA — With four days to go before they are officially on the clock for the 2017 NFL Draft, the 49ers are still internally debating their No. 2 pick.

While most believe the first pick will be potentially transformative pass-rusher Myles Garrett from Texas A&M, San Francisco can go a number of different ways.

According to several sources with knowledge of the team’s thinking, the 49ers are still strongly considering taking a quarterback second overall. That would be somewhat of a surprise, considering they signed presumptive starter Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley in the offseason — and they have Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins potentially as an option for 2018. Taking a quarterback high would likely end any chance at Cousins.

But the team does not yet have a long-term answer at quarterback, and those who know coach Kyle Shanahan well insist North Carolina QB Mitchell Trubisky would best fit what he does on offense. Trubisky is considered by some to be the top QB in the class, though evaluations at this position differ more greatly than any other spot in this draft.

San Francisco has done extensive homework on each of the top passers. If the 49ers are on the clock and poised to take Trubisky — over players like LSU’s Leonard Fournette or Stanford’s Solomon Thomas — it could create an interesting dilemma.

Several teams are plotting potentially trading up with the Niners or others for a quarterback, gauging the price and weighing options. The Browns are one of those teams, as are others who could draft a QB high.

At this point, Cody Kessler, who the Browns like, would be the starter.

The Browns front office believes Trubisky is the top draftable QB, sources say, but could they dissuade the 49ers from taking him by trading draft capital to get up from No. 12 to No. 2? Could they end up with picks 1 and 2, using the stockpiled selections to make a bold move?

Or does Cleveland choose patience, hoping their quarterback of choice is there for them if they sit tight or trade up just a few picks? At this point, that has not been decided.

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