When a football player dominates the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, it doesn’t make many NFL scouts radars. But when you are talking about a wide receiver who is 6’3″, 219 pounds and possesses 4.42 40 yard dash speed that is a different story. That is what drew the Green Bay Packers to Saginaw Valley State wide receiver Jeff Janis before the 2014 NFL Draft. The Packers spent a seventh round pick on the very raw, but explosive athlete. Fast forward to the present, and the Packers are still waiting and hoping that Janis’ production will catch up to his athletic ability. As of yet, that hasn’t happened. Time might be running out for Jeff Janis.
Time Might Be Running Out For Jeff Janis
Packers general manager Ted Thompson and head coach Mike McCarthy aren’t rookies when it comes to the NFL. They knew that it would take time to develop the raw Janis. Even with catching 246 passes for 4,305 yards and 46 touchdowns at Saginaw Valley State, it wasn’t because of the complicated offense run or Janis’ route running ability. Janis has been gifted with elite size and speed, and that is what he used at Saginaw to dominate his Division II competition. But at the next level, Janis would not only have to use his speed, but would also have to learn how to run routes like a professional and understand the ins and outs of a very complicated professional offense. If that wasn’t enough, he would be playing with arguably the best quarterback in the NFL in Aaron Rodgers, a quarterback that expects and demands perfection from his pass catchers.
Many Packers fans were hoping that Janis would be another Jordy Nelson, the Packers veteran wide receiver who has made his mark in the Packers offense the past eight seasons. Both are very similar in size (both are 6’3”, while Nelson weighs 217 lbs. and Janis is 219 lbs.) and have great downfield speed. Unlike Janis, Nelson played football in a big time football conference, the Big 12 while at Kansas State, giving him a leg up on Janis. But Nelson has done something that Janis has yet to do in his professional career, develop a relationship with Rodgers.
Nelson and Rodgers have a relationship on the football field that most receiver-quarterback duos can only dream of having. Rodgers knows what Nelson can do and in return, Nelson knows what Rodgers expects. This comes from hours of practice time the two have spent together on the practice field. Nelson has earned Rodgers trust, which is why Nelson has become Rodgers go-to guy in crunch time. But the same can’t be said about Rodgers and Janis. Rodgers needs his receivers to show it in practice, so he is comfortable going to them in a game situation, but Janis hasn’t displayed that yet. Without getting on the same page as Rodgers, the team leader, it has stalled Janis progression and have left many to wonder if Janis will ever make the next jump in his maturation.
The Packers are known for their patience, especially with players who they used a draft pick on. But the patience has to be running thin when it comes to Janis. Although he has carved out a nice niche on special teams, being the Packers gunner on both kickoff and punt coverage as well as their kickoff returner, he has yet to become a consistent threat on offense. In his three-year career, Janis has 15 catches for 188 yards and just one receiving touchdown. The Packers and even Janis himself might have thought he turned the corner as a receiver when he was forced into action in the Packers 2015 playoff loss against the Arizona Cardinals. In that game, with the Packers only having three healthy receivers after Randall Cobb left with an injury, Janis finally showed what he is capable of doing. Janis caught seven passes for 145 yards with two touchdowns that day. Expectations for the 2016 season increased after that productive day, but Janis was incapable of building on the momentum. Although it was a career best season for him, he only had 11 catches for 93 yards and one touchdown.
With him entering his fourth year with the Packers, time and patience are possibly running out on Janis. He has proven his worth as a special teams player, but that will only take you so far when it comes to earning a roster spot. Not only does Janis need to produce on offense, as well as keep up his special teams ability, he will need to fend off competition. In last year’s draft, the Packers spent a fifth round pick on California wide receiver Trevor Davis. This year, they spent another fifth round pick as well as a seventh round pick on the same position, selecting Purdue’s DeAngelo Yancey and wide receiver Malachi Dupre from LSU.
Janis has a lot of pressure on him going into this year’s training camp. If he is going to finally make the next step in the Packers offense, it is going to have to be this year. He will be facing tough competition as well as making sure that Rodgers can depend on him. Coined the “People’s Receiver” by Packers fans, he will need to show that he is capable of producing in their offense, otherwise, he will be another team’s “People’s Receiver.”