Packers Annual Checkup: Jeff Janis
Jeff Janis, wide receiver
FOX Sports Wisconsin’s Paul Imig gives an in-depth statistical analysis and film study of every Packers player in his annual offseason checkup. You can find every report here.
Season stats (playoffs included): Three games (15 snaps); two catches, two targets, 16 yards, zero touchdowns, forced one missed tackle
ProFootballFocus.com season rating: 0.2
Best game: Week 5 win over Minnesota (played 11 of 57 snaps); two catches (two targets), 16 yards, zero touchdowns, zero dropped passes, one forced missed tackle; 0.3 PFF rating
Worst game: Week 6 win at Miami (played 3 of 80 snaps); zero catches (zero targets), zero yards; minus-0.3 PFF rating
Expectations at the start of training camp: Low
Expectations were . . . Met
Looking live: Not many seventh-round picks come with a lot of hype or excitement. But Jeff Janis is not an ordinary seventh-round pick. When the Packers drafted Janis with the 236th overall pick in 2014, they got a player who had really wowed Ted Thompson.
"He’s a remarkably gifted athlete," Thompson said the night Green Bay selected Janis. "He completely dominated his level of play. We do testing results of all the 40s and jumps and bench presses and shuttles and all that of every player in the draft that is eligible — it’s like 1,000 guys. Of all the receivers in that group, he was the second-rated athlete according to his testing. He’s a very gifted fellow."
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 (20 reps) and the three-cone drill (6.64 seconds).
Yes, Janis went to Saginaw Valley State and wasn’t exactly matching up against NFL-caliber players. Running past Division II competition for touchdowns obviously doesn’t hold the same value as getting open in the SEC. That’s why someone with Janis’ athleticism would fall as far as he did.
"I’ve always been a little bit of an underdog throughout my athletic career," Janis said in May 2014. "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."
Training camp started about as badly as it possibly could have for Janis. He went to the hospital the day before the first practice when he felt a pain in his abdomen. It turned out that Janis had shingles. That kept him out of the first seven practices.
When Janis made his training-camp debut on Aug. 4, he was working in a limited fashion. But only two days later, Janis made his presence known. He was recognized in the "Movin’ On Up" category of FOXSportsWisconsin.com’s Training Camp Report series that day when he hauled in a one-handed touchdown catch over Sam Shields. On Aug. 11, Janis was back in that top category again when he went over Casey Hayward near the sideline, caught the ball and tapped both feet inbounds for a completed catch.
"I didn’t think it was that big of deal because we are on scout team and I was just going off the cards, but I guess everybody made a big deal about it," Janis said. "I have people texting me and was like, ‘Jesus.’"
Upon further review: Janis’ first-ever NFL game — albeit a preseason game — was an incredibly memorable one. He only played 19 offensive snaps in St. Louis, but it’s difficult to imagine a debut going any better. In the second half, Janis caught a short pass from Matt Flynn on a crossing route and took off. He then sprinted 30 yards and outran every Rams player in sight to reach the end zone.
With that, Janis was given the "V12" nickname for his Lamborghini-esque wheels. Janis lived up to that nickname again in the preseason finale when he got past the coverage on a "man-beater" route to catch a touchdown pass from Scott Tolzien.
Even though the Packers knew Janis still needed a lot of seasoning and was unlikely to contribute much as a rookie, they had little choice but to keep him on the 53-man active roster for the regular season. There was too much positive film out there on Janis by that point to think they could try to slide him onto the practice squad without another team claiming him first.
"I think there’s still a lot more that I need to prove, but I think I’ve shown what I can do and I think it’s going to be encouraging to the coaches," Janis said after the preseason finale.
There might have never been a more popular 15-snap player in the history of the NFL than Janis. Nearly every week there would be multiple questions sent in to our Packers Mailbag series about why Janis wasn’t playing more and whether I thought that would change soon. Mike McCarthy admitted after the season that he thought several times about using Janis as the kick returner, but it never materialized.
Janis was a healthy inactive in Weeks 1-3 but got to be on the game day roster Weeks 4-6 when Jarrett Boykin was out. However, once Boykin was back, Janis was out again. Despite the pleas from fans, Janis was inactive for the final 10 games of the regular season, as well as both playoff games.
The two regular-season passes that Janis caught both came from Flynn in Week 5 at Minnesota when Green Bay already had a 42-10 lead.
Overall 2014 grade: C-minus
Status for 2015: Ninety-nine percent chance of being on the Packers’ active roster to begin the 2015 season. It sure doesn’t sound like fans will have to clamor for Janis much longer. McCarthy spoke very highly of Janis when asked about the 23-year-old wide receiver during the recent Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. "I think Jeff is going to take a big step," McCarthy said. "He’s got a big catching radius, and he needs to utilize it. Obviously, I think we all saw his vertical speed. He’s an extremely physical young man. He’s an Olympian in the weight room. He’s got a lot of raw skill, and I look for him to make that jump. He has to use that catching radius, and he has the type of body type you really like." Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and Davante Adams will all be back in 2015 to lead Green Bay’s receiving group, but Janis is going to get a lot more opportunities to contribute than he did as a rookie.
Next: Defensive lineman Datone Jones
Follow Paul Imig on Twitter