Can Jeff Janis break out for Green Bay Packers in 2015?


Aug 28, 2014; Green Bay, WI, USA; Green Bay Packers wide receiver Jeff Janis (83) catches a touchdown pass as Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Phillip Gaines (23) defends during the second quarter at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

The Green Bay Packers have a habit of developing young talent into stars.

General Manager Ted Thompson’s draft-and-develop philosophy demands for it to be this way, and you only have to look at the wide receivers who have lit up Lambeau Field in recent years to see it’s working.

Greg Jennings; James Jones; Jordy Nelson; Randall Cobb …

Is Jeff Janis next?

Per ESPN Wisconsin’s Jason Wilde, head coach Mike McCarthy thinks he can.

"“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,” McCarthy said."

While falling to the Packers in the seventh-round of the 2014 draft, many had projected Janis to go as early as the fourth.

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Janis dominated at Division II’s Saginaw Valley State, making 106 receptions for 1,635 yards and 17 touchdowns. He impressed again in 2013 with 83 receptions for 1,572 yards and 14 touchdowns.

Of course, there is a major gulf in quality between Division II football and the NFL, and it’s why Janis didn’t see much of the field in 2014 for the Packers.

Despite that, he has the physical tools to succeed in the NFL. Janis is 6-3 and 219 pounds – in comparison Jordy Nelson is 6-3 and 217 pounds. Janis is an athletic player and has a great blend of size and speed.

Aug 16, 2014; St. Louis, MO, USA; Green Bay Packers wide receiver Jeff Janis (83) avoids a diving St. Louis Rams safety Christian Bryant (26) during the second half at Edward Jones Dome. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports

A year ago at the 2014 NFL Combine, Janis impressed: He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.42 seconds – sixth best in last year’s receiver class.

He was fifth-best for receivers on the bench press with 20 reps and ranked tenth for vertical leap with 37.5 inches.

We got a very small glimpse of Janis in a Packers uniform during the 2014 preseason.

He only had two receptions, but both went for touchdowns. The first was in week two of the preseason at St. Louis: Janis caught a short pass from Matt Flynn and turned it into a 34-yard touchdown.

Two weeks later at home against the Kansas City Chiefs, third-string quarterback Scott Tolzien connected with Janis for a 33-yard touchdown.

In the same game versus the Chiefs, Janis returned a kickoff 69 yards.

While it was an incredibly short sample size, everything he touched turned into gold for the Packers in the preseason.

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Despite impressing in the combine and in his preseason cameos, Janis needs to improve his route-running and ability to separate. These are areas where he wasn’t truly tested at the Division II level with weaker competition; he will have to adapt to the quicker pace and tighter coverage in the NFL.

Fortunately, route-running can be taught; athletic ability can’t. Janis has a fantastic work ethic, and that will help him turn his raw talent into becoming a polished wideout for the Packers.

If he can sharpen up in those areas, he has the size, strength and speed to become a dangerous weapon for Aaron Rodgers in the passing game. His vertical leap could make him a solid target in the red zone, an area in which the Packers had their struggles at times in 2014.

Mike McCarthy certainly has confidence in him. With a full offseason under his belt, perhaps Jeff Janis will fly under the radar and break out as another star in the Green Bay Packers offense in 2015.

Follow Freddie on Twitter: @freddieboston

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