SANTA CLARA -- The 49ers brought in small, explosive slot receiver Tavon Austin to their team offices for a pre-draft meeting.
Was it just a smokescreen to put word out to a certain NFC West rival that the 49ers -- armed with plenty of draft picks to trade up -- might make a play for the former West Virginia star?
Well, if it was a smokescreen it worked -- for both teams.
The 49ers might have gotten what they desired: The St. Louis Rams were convinced they had to spend the price to trade up eight spots to No. 8 overall to select Austin. The 49ers ended up trading up to No. 18 and getting safety Eric Reid. That move has not worked out bad, at all.
And the Rams definitely got what they desired: A big-play threat who is starting to show the kind of huge play-making ability that has helped the St. Louis pull off back-to-back victories over Indianapolis and Chicago.
Austin, in a conference call with Bay Area reporters, said he left Santa Clara before the draft believing there was a strong chance the 49ers could be his first NFL team.
“Yeah, I believed so, just based on the type of players they had,” Austin said. “I’m similar to them. So I definitely think they probably could’ve used me over there.”
Up to this point, the 49ers could definitely have used Austin. After a slow start, Austin has 35 receptions for 384 yards and four touchdowns. He has also averaged 8.7 yards on 31 punt returns.
Austin, the NFC Special Teams Player of the Month, has been particularly impressive in the Rams’ past two games with four touchdowns. He had a 98-yard punt return and scoring passes of 57 and 81 yards against Indianapolis. And last week he added a 65-yard touchdown run against the Bears.