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What we learned about the 2017 NFL draft on the first day of the combine

The Bengals are taking a running back, and some teams will be hot after offensive linemen.

NFL: Combine Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

INDIANAPOLIS — The NFL Scouting Combine began in earnest on Wednesday, with head coaches and executives from several teams meeting the media. If you dig through the hyperbole and conjecture, there were plenty of things to learn about the 2017 NFL draft.

The Bengals will draft a running back this year

Bengals director of player personnel Duke Tobin was the most open executive on Wednesday, answering questions frankly and truthfully. The most important piece of information he passed along is that his team will take a running back at some point.

Where exactly, who knows? The Bengals could have a shot at LSU’s Leonard Fournette or Florida State’s Dalvin Cook with the No. 9 overall pick. That could ultimately end up being too high for Tobin, who said on Wednesday if you’re good at scouting you can find a running back anywhere.

Tobin’s desire to draft a running back likely spells the end of free agent Rex Burkhead’s time in Cincinnati. If he’s looking into the middle of the draft for a running back, Toledo’s Kareem Hunt, South Florida’s Marlon Mack, and Boise State’s Jeremy McNichols all fit.

Every team says they’ll listen to trading their first-round pick, but it makes the most sense for Tennessee

Every head coach and executive you ask will say they’ll listen to offers on trading their first-round draft pick. It’s a non-news thing that gets covered like serious breaking news every year.

Titans general manager Jon Robinson said “he’s open for business” with the No. 5 pick, and this one actually makes sense. The Titans currently don’t have a second-round pick and their needs in the secondary match up nicely with the strength of this draft.

The Titans could slide back a few picks and potentially still have their choice of cornerbacks. Ohio State’s Marshon Lattimore may be gone if they move down to say, pick No. 10, but cornerbacks like Alabama’s Marlon Humphrey and Florida’s Quincy Wilson could be available. Moving from five to 10 could also be a far enough drop to get that missing second-rounder back.

Finding Adrian Peterson’s replacement

The Minnesota Vikings declined Peterson’s option for 2017 and suddenly they’re in the market for a running back. It’s a good year to pick one, and Vikings general manager Rick Spielman agrees.

“There’s a significant amount of talent at that position,” Spielman said Wednesday. “And to be honest with you, I can’t remember a year where the draft class at running back is this deep.”

The Vikings won’t pick until No. 46 or 48 this year because of the Sam Bradford trade. They’ll have a considerable amount of runners to choose from, even beyond the second round. North Carolina’s Elijah Hood, BYU’s Jamaal Williams, and Oklahoma’s Samaje Perine all fit Minnesota’s offense. If they do use the second-round pick on a running back, keep an eye on D’Onta Foreman of Texas.

Fixing the Carolina offensive line

The Carolina Panthers were in the Super Bowl two years ago, and missed out on a repeat appearance last year in part due to shoddy offensive line play.

One of those offensive linemen is tackle Michael Oher, who suffered a concussion in September and remains in the NFL’s concussion protocol. That could lead to the Panthers taking an offensive tackle in a class that has been panned as one of the worst in the draft this year.

“You can’t deny what’s going on,” Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman said about Oher. “We’re in the unknown and we’re going to move forward. We’ve got a plan and we’ll just see where it goes. I can’t give you anything more than that.”

That plan could include signing a veteran tackle, or drafting one. Currently sitting at No. 8 overall in the first round, there’s no value on the offensive line with a pick that high. Bucknell’s Julie’n Davenport may be a target in the second round. Gettleman has never shied away from taking a small-school player, and at 6’6 and with 36-inch arms, Davenport certainly looks the part.

Searching for Denver’s offensive tackle of the future

The Broncos are another team that has to fix their offensive line. They turned down the option on left tackle Russell Okung, but general manager John Elway said he could be brought back.

Even if Okung returns, the Broncos should consider a developmental offensive tackle for the future. Dan Skipper of Arkansas fits that bill, as does Conor McDermott of UCLA. Both are big players who need to be refined.