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Sporting News has 49ers as a ‘wild card’ for drafting Saquon Barkley

Would the 49ers take Barkley if he slides a bit on draft day?

There are some people who won’t even consider the possibility of running back Saquon Barkley falling out of the top five or even the top three. He’s a “generational talent,” an overused term, but one that is hard to argue with given his skillset and production in college. Barkley has been extremely good, and if there’s a “safe top five running back,” it’s him.

But to anybody who thinks he won’t fall at all, I would point out that the NFL Draft is chaos and there are very rarely sure things. I would also point out the potential run on quarterbacks, teams being completely unpredictable when it comes to the running back position.

Personally, I expect Barkley to make it past the Browns at fourth overall, but don’t expect him to be there when the San Francisco 49ers are picking at No. 9 overall. But a drop to No. 9 wouldn’t be a massive fall, especially for a running back, and you can find plenty who believe he could wind up being available ... again, depending on how the quarterback position goes.

So it’s interesting for me to see others talk about Barkley and his potential landing spot. Over at Sporting News, they took a look at many potential suitors for Barkley, and put them in a few categories. They listed 12 teams as either “favorites,” “sleepers,” “wild cards,” or “long shots” to draft Barkley.

The 49ers are listed as “wild cards,” which apparently means they are a bigger candidate than only the long shots (and, of course, any team not listed at all).

It appears San Francisco is giving pricey free-agent addition Jerick McKinnon his chance to be more of a feature back. Although McKinnon has some Tevin Coleman-like qualities, coach Kyle Shanahan is touting him as a Devonta Freeman-like lead back. But given this is the new, explosive 49ers offense led by Jimmy Garoppolo, their going for the gold of Barkley can’t be ruled out.

Acquiring Barkley probably would require a slight slide, but the Niners are equipped with a second-rounder and two third-rounders, giving them some flexibility to move up a little. Shanahan’s gushing, drooling and geeking out on McKinnon, though, would make this pick come out of left field.

Yeah, it would be out of left field, but it also ... makes sense in a way? Shanahan doesn’t seem like the kind of coach who would be at all upset about having too many weapons to work with on offense, after all.