Packers rookie WR Janis has 'always been a little bit of an underdog'

Despite being one of the top-testing -- and statistically proven -- wide receivers available in the draft, Saginaw Valley State's Jeff Janis fell to the seventh round, where Green Bay Packers GM Ted Thompson selected the "remarkably gifted athlete."

At 6-foot-3 and 219 pounds, Packers seventh-round wide receiver Jeff Janis ran a 4.42-second 40-yard dash, had a 37.5-inch vertical jump and was a top Combine performer in both the bench press and the three-cone drill.

Mike Roemer / Associated Press

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- There is not much more that wide receiver Jeff Janis could have done to make himself worthy of being a mid-round draft prospect. Elite-level testing numbers at the Scouting Combine and dominating college statistics didn't matter as much as Janis thought they would, though, as he slid all the way down to the Green Bay Packers in the seventh round.

Of course, the main reason that his draft stock tumbled the way it did is because Janis played at Saginaw Valley State, a small Division II school. After all, the competition level in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference is not exactly at an SEC-type level.

"I've always been a little bit of an underdog throughout my athletic career," Janis said. "It helps your character and helps you work a little bit harder. That's what I want to show, that I'm willing to work and I'm willing to contribute on the team in any way."

While general manager Ted Thompson would never specifically comment as to whether he thought there was a chance leading up to the draft that the Packers would select three wide receivers, it's logical to think that was an extreme longshot. Drafting one wide receiver made a lot of sense, drafting two made some sense, but drafting three was very surprising. That demonstrates just how much value Green Bay saw in Janis when deciding to make him its final pick of the year at No. 236 overall.

"He's a remarkably gifted athlete," Thompson said. "He completely dominated his level of play. We do testing results of all the 40 (-yard dashes) and jumps and bench presses and shuttles and all that of every player in the draft that is eligible; it's like one thousand guys. Of all the receivers in that group, he was the second-rated athlete according to his testing.

"He's a very gifted fellow."

The second-rated athlete out of a thousand draft prospects is not typically the profile accompanying a seventh-round pick. But even without seeing the workouts firsthand, it's difficult to not be impressed by the numbers that Janis posted. At 6-foot-3 and 219 pounds, he ran a 4.42-second 40-yard dash, had a 37.5-inch vertical jump and was a top Combine performer in both the bench press (20 reps) and the three-cone drill (6.64 seconds).

"What I did at the Combine really got me on the map, but that doesn't matter once you hit the football field," Janis said. "It's what you can do out there. I'm trying to show them I can compete."

Janis is from the small city of Tawas, Mich., which he compared to Wautoma, Wis., where fellow rookie wide receiver Jared Abbrederis is from. Growing up there, Janis said he "was usually the fastest," but it wasn't until his senior year of high school that a growth spurt hit. But even as he grew taller, there wasn't much interest in him from Division I football programs.

"I had a few visits to Central Michigan and that's kind of where I thought I was going to go, but they stopped talking to me and that's when I started visiting some Division II schools," Janis said.

Saginaw Valley State wasn't a step back in Janis' mind, though.

"Shoot, we had some nationally televised games, and that's huge," he said. "I had a great experience at Saginaw Valley and I think what I did there was great and I had a great experience there. And I'm the all-time receiver there now, so I can't complain about that."

The addition of Janis in the seventh round, after the Packers had already taken Davante Adams in the second round and Abbrederis in the fifth round, gives Green Bay a wide receiver group that's about six-to-eight deep in talented players. With Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb leading the way and Jarrett Boykin preparing for his third NFL season, quarterback Aaron Rodgers suddenly has a lot of quality options to throw to.

"Move back to the receiver group, top to bottom," head coach Mike McCarthy said, "I don't know if we've ever had as competitive as that as far as if you go just off pure evaluation of players coming into your program and aligning them with the players that are already here."

That's a very high compliment for a team that once had Nelson, Cobb, Greg Jennings, James Jones and Donald Driver all on the roster together.

"I think it's a good thing," Janis said of the competition level. "I think it brings out the best in everybody. When you've got multiple guys fighting for one spot, you've got to go out there and show what you can do."

If anyone is counting Janis out from being anything better than the No. 6 receiver on the depth chart this season, that's just another person adding to his underdog status.

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