The legend of Jeff Janis is a fascinating one. Janis, an athletic freak, quickly became a fan favorite in Green Bay because of his seemingly unlimited potential and strong preseason performances. People are all over the map on Janis. Casual fans are so excited about Janis that there has been palpable backlash from the “football” community.
Whether you’re part of one extreme or the other, reality is more than likely somewhere in the middle. Janis is not an incapable receiver without upside that won’t ever be able to run routes or understand the nuance of the Packers offense. He may never be Jordy Nelson in that regard, but Nelson himself only had 686 receiving yards during his first two seasons.
He’s also not the “Great White Hope” of the offense, or at least he wasn’t a season ago. So many fans a season ago pleaded for Janis last season when Nelson succumbed to injury and the remaining Green Bay receiving corps couldn’t get open. The reality is that the receiving corps was evaluated every day in practice, and Janis did not earn reps. He was forced into the Arizona game because of injury, and 101 of his 145 yards in that game came on two very fluky plays. He wasn’t ready.
What Janis actually is is a third year developmental receiver. This is the season that Janis should start to show real gains in his offensive production. Historically, receivers in McCarthy’s offense take a big jump in year three, though not many receivers the Packers have selected were as raw as Janis when selected. With Nelson returning, and Randall Cobb, Davante Adams and Ty Montgomery definitely playing in front of him, Janis is under little pressure.
Here’s a revelation, though. Jeff Janis is going to make the 53 man roster. In fact, he’s the third safest wide receiver on the team behind Cobb and Nelson. He’s the third safest wide receiver on the team because he’s one of the absolute best special teamers in the NFL.
That’s unsurprising. Special teams certainly isn’t as complicated as the Packers’ offense and there’s a lot you can do with a 6’3″ 220 pound man who can run 40 yards in 4.3 seconds. Not only is Janis an above average kick returner, he’s one of the best two or three punt gunners in the league.
Special teams have long been an issue for McCarthy’s Packers. So much so that Shawn Slocum was replaced by Ron Zook a season ago. Janis is Zook’s #1 weapon on teams and has almost no chance of being released this off season because of that very point.
Jeff Janis has the athletic ability to be a star in the NFL. He also has the limitations that kept him from being drafted in the first six rounds of the NFL draft. He’s a bona fide star on special teams. Janis will continue to tantalize Packers fans with his deep threat potential, but it might be time to start considering his offensive production as gravy, not the main course.