This week marks the unofficial/official start of the draft season with the annual NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.

We covered a lot of topics on this week’s edition of the 49ers Insider Podcast, as readers/listeners asked us to address an array of topics.

Here are some of the questions we received for a pre-combine 49ers Mailbag:

Peter King says the 49ers are out on AB any truth to that? (@ninerhive)

That’s not exactly what Peter King wrote in his “Football Morning in America” column on Monday. But he made it clear he does not believe the 49ers are all that interested in wide receiver Antonio Brown.

King wrote,"I don’t see San Francisco, unless Jerry Rice gets hired as GM."

With all the baggage Brown will bring to his new team, there are legitimate reasons why the 49ers would hesitate– despite his productivity over his career. But if teams are not exactly lining up to swing a trade with the Pittsburgh Steelers, the price tag could entice the 49ers to get involved.

With Brown due a $2.5 million bonus in two weeks, the Steelers will want to get things moving quickly. The combine is a great place for those discussions to heat up.

 

Would it make sense to target pass rusher via free agency or just draft a top pass rush prospect #2 overall if that's the direction the front office wants to go in? (@DionCarolina)

In my opinion, the 49ers must target a pass rusher in free agency.

In my opinion, the 49ers must target a pass rusher in the draft.

So, yes, both. The 49ers can improve their defense dramatically with the addition to two edge rushers who provide upgrades over the players the 49ers had in those spots a year ago.

If not Nick Bosa, then Josh Allen. It really looks to be that simple. Doesn’t it?

What are the 49ers chances of signing Earl Thomas? (@buck342) 

A year ago, the 49ers entered the offseason feeling good about their safeties: Jaquiski Tartt and Adrian Colbert. They added Marcell Harris in the draft, and he played well down the final stretch of the season.

Neither Tartt nor Colbert solidified their long-term positions with the organization last season. But the 49ers could still consider them starting-caliber players. Harris inserted himself in the mix to compete for a starting job, too.

Still, if the price is right, the 49ers should be interested in Thomas. After all, he is the prototype for free safety in this defense, much the same way Richard Sherman is the ideal at cornerback.

Are they re-signing Jimmie Ward (@INDlVlDUAL) 

There are plenty of reasons to like Ward, including his versatility and how hard he plays the game.

Of course, there are reasons for the 49ers to want to move on from Ward, too . . . namely, his history of injuries. Four of his five NFL seasons have concluded with him going on injured reserve with bone fractures.

Yes, the coaching staff wants to bring back Ward. But general manager John Lynch has every reason to be cautious. It is doubtful the 49ers would enter into a multi-year contract with Ward. If he gets a good offer elsewhere, the 49ers will probably let him walk.

Who has a higher upside between Mullens or Beathard as a backup QB? (@Nacoz49ers)
What will happen possibly with either Mullens or Beathard? Will one become a trading tool potentially? (@BryanRedmann) 

C.J. Beathard, a third-round draft pick in 2017, has more upside than Nick Mullens, who was undrafted in that same year. Beathard can make all the throws. He does not seem to have any physical limitations.

That said, Mullens was more productive last season after entering the 49ers’ starting lineup.

Mullens completed 64.2 percent of his passes with 13 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Only Patrick Mahomes, Andrew Luck and Cam Newton have thrown for more than Mullens’ 2,277 yards through eight starts.

Beathard completed 60.4 percent of his attempts with eight TDs and seven interceptions in five starts.

 

The 49ers have not given up on Beathard as much as Mullens has put himself into a position to legitimately compete for the backup job to Jimmy Garoppolo.

I doubt either player would have much trade value. No team would make a deal with the idea of either player competing for a starting job. It would probably be more realistic for the 49ers to hold onto both players as insurance.