Saquon Barkley could follow in the footsteps of Leonard Fournette or Christian McCaffrey.

All of the early projections have Barkley leaving school early and becoming a top-10 pick in the 2018 NFL draft.

But like Fournette and McCaffrey, Barkley could find himself in a tough predicament at season’s end. That is, he could decide to sit out a bowl game.

Barkley was asked about that question by Sports Illustrated before the 2017 NFL draft. Admittedly, he didn’t have a strong stance one way or another.

SI’s Pete Thamel wrote that Barkley changed his mind a few times on the subject. But the answer he settled on was right on the money.

“I would have a hard time doing it,” Barkley said to 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.”

So to recap, Barkley did NOT say that he would sit out a bowl game if he was at 100 percent. But if he was injured, who could blame him for sitting if Penn State wasn’t playing in a big-time bowl game?

RELATED: Ohio State, Penn State could be in for quite the draft battle in 2018

Many seem to forget that McCaffrey and Fournette were both banged up in 2016, and both of their teams were playing in lackluster bowl games after not meeting expectations.

Barkley spent much of the 2016 with ankle injuries himself, and if those were still a problem at the end of the 2017 season, he wouldn’t be wrong to sit out a bowl game to not risk his top-10 draft stock. Nobody would be able to question Barkley’s attitude, either. The guy has done nothing but work his tail off for Penn State.

After all, it’s different for running backs. What would 25 carries in the Sun Bowl really do for Barkley or for Penn State? The risk certainly outweighs the reward. Barkley would have every right to make that choice if he felt that was the case.

The Lions are a team with national title aspirations. If that, or even winning a different New Year’s Six game is on the table, Barkley is a safe bet to play at less than 100 percent.

If all goes according to plan, this won’t become a talking point from Penn State during the season. Barkley will be the one leading Penn State to glory and his draft stock will continue to rise.

All signs point to him having the same draft destiny as Fournette and McCaffrey.

Barkley earned the right to decide what path he’ll take to get there.