Packers 2017 Recap: WR Jeff Janis

Every few years, a Packers player comes along that captures the attention and admiration from the fan base. Sure, everyone was a fan of Brett Favre, Aaron Rodgers or Reggie White during their tenures.

Rather, these under-the-radar players announce their arrival with a flashy play in preseason or through rumors passed between locals about how this player, this unknown player, may be the missing key to all of the team’s problems.

Wide receiver Jeff Janis fits this criteria, arriving in 2014 as a seventh-round pick. Somehow, someway, the speedy Janis made his mark on special teams and has hung around the Packers for four seasons.

2017 Stats

  • Appeared in 16 games
  • 2 receptions, 12 yards
  • 3 kick returns, 43 yards, 14.3 yards per return

Expectations going into the season: Moderate
Expectations were: Met

Analysis: Jeff Janis is a unicorn, not a wide receiver

Jeff Janis was drafted as a wide receiver, but his role on the team in 2017 was as anything but. If last season’s odyssey of playing in regular season games as a pass catcher with a clubbed hand wasn’t enough proof, the Packers turned to anyone else but Janis for offensive support.

The offense was desperate for a spark without Aaron Rodgers, but Janis saw just eight snaps on offense before the final two weeks of the regular season. The Packers view him as a special teams ace now.

He began the season returning kickoffs, but was benched after the first five games in favor of fellow receiver Trevor Davis. Despite Janis' prodigious speed, he's never been able to translate his athletic abilities into touchdowns with the ball in his hands. 

That hasn’t stopped him from being one of the team’s most reliable preseason weapons, however. Exhibition opponents have provided glimpses into what might be. There’s a staggering difference between his performance in the preseason and regular season.

Since 2000, there have been 25 wide receivers who were selected in the seventh round of the NFL Draft and played four or more seasons. It’s hard to find a single receiver who has had a similar career trajectory as Janis, however.

Three receivers drafted in the seventh round after 2000 played four years with fewer receiving yards than Janis: Mark Jones (2004-2007), Marc Mariani (2010-2014), and Sean Morey (2001-2004).

Jones and Mariani were return specialists more than wide receivers. Morey may be the closest comparison to Janis, reinventing himself as a special teams ace with the Steelers and Cardinals after being drafted by the Patriots.

All told, there is no receiver quite like Jeff Janis in recent memory.