The San Francisco 49ers' stealthiest offseason signing could be paying off sooner than expected.
Jarryd Hayne, an Australian rugby star-turned NFL prospect, was signed to a three-year deal in March. Now, the running back/return specialist has caught the eyes of several personnel men around the league.
Through two weeks of preseason football, Hayne has had some electrifying runs. Hayne ripped off a 34-yard run against the Dallas Cowboys' second-team defense in Sunday night's 23-6 preseason win. He finished with eight carries for 54 yards.
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Hayne's real value for the 49ers could be on special teams, however. After a 33-yard kickoff return last week, Hayne has averaged 21.6 yards a punt return on five attempts.
"Has some run skill, good burst, strong runner with vision but runs tall," one NFC exec told FOXSports.com in a text message. "Shows some ability as a returner."
Hayne, 27, weaved his way to a big-time gain in the first quarter of Sunday's game:
"He's had some good returns," an AFC scout said. "Can make the first guy miss and keep it vertical. Still should've made the punter miss."
The 6-foot-2, 220-pound typically is a load to bring down.
"He's got burst and runs with toughness," another AFC scout said. "I like what I see."
Hayne, who is a legend overseas, has been followed by Aussie media over the last two weeks. In fact, some of the media was admonished for cheering in the Houston Texans' press box during his debut.
Hayne's agent, Jack Bechta, pointed out on Twitter why he could be having such immediate success on punt returns:
For the 49ers, Hayne's emergence couldn't come at a better time as they've had one of the most bizarre offseasons in recent history.