Janis Can Run Away From Underdog Status

Seventh-rounder Jeff Janis, a Division II All-American at Saginaw Valley State, showed at the Scouting Combine that he has the elite athleticism to make the jump to the NFL. "It would not surprise me if he ends up beating out (fifth-round pick Jared) Abbrederis," a scout said.

Saginaw Valley State football coach Jim Collins knows Jeff Janis about as well as anyone. So, not surprisingly, he had the Green Bay Packers' rookie receiver perfectly pegged.

"They're getting an absolutely great human being," Collins told Packer Report this week. "Let me tell you, he is a down-to-earth, very humble person who is an extremely hard worker and extremely conscientious and competitive."

Janis was the proverbial big fish in a small pond at Saginaw Valley State. En route to being named a Division II All-American during his final two seasons, Janis caught 189 passes for 3,207 yards — a gaudy 17.0-yard average — and 31 touchdowns.

None of that means a thing, though. With Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, Jarrett Boykin and second-round pick Davante Adams assured roster spots, Janis knows there's plenty of hard work ahead.

"You've just got to go out there and make plays and show that you can compete against everybody else," he said after Friday's rookie orientation camp practice. "That's kind of what I'm going to show at this rookie camp and, hopefully, after that, just keep making plays."

It's obviously an enormous jump from Division II to the NFL. Janis isn't intimidated — and for good reason. He wasted little time in showing he could beat top-tier cornerbacks at the Senior Bowl. And of the 33 receivers who were drafted, Janis ran the fifth-fastest 40-yard dash (4.42 seconds), the second-fastest three-cone drill (6.64), the fourth-fastest 20-yard shuttle (3.98) and had the 12th-best vertical jump (37.5 inches). All of that in a 6-foot-3 package.

"What I did at the Combine really got me on the map, but that doesn't matter once you hit the football field," he said. "It's what you can do out there. I'm trying to show them I can compete."

The NFL's head scout, Dave-Te' Thomas, downplays Janis' small-school resume. Sure, he'll play against infinitely better cornerbacks but his size and speed give him a chance to take that next step.

"I think that Janis is a cannibal when he steps on the football field. Yum, yum, eat 'em up," Thomas said. "He will block, he will simply fly. The only knock on him was the competition that he went up against. Once you get into camp, a skill-position player, I'm not concerned about. Now, if this was a lineman coming out of a small college, yeah, I would worry because going up against 250-pound guys doesn't really tell me anything about how good you're going to be. No matter where Janis went, whether he played at Division I or Division II, with his size and his athleticism, it's going to give him a good chance to get to the ball. I like Janis. If you came up in the seventh round and he was there, you had to take him. It would not surprise me if he ends up beating out (fifth-round pick Jared) Abbrederis."

The Packers' receiver group went from thin to — potentially — deep in the span of a few days. Along with Nelson, Cobb and Boykin, Chris Harper (fourth round by Seattle in 2013), Kevin Dorsey (seventh round by Green Bay in 2013) and Myles White (nine catches for Green Bay as undrafted rookie in 2013) are back. Janis was the third of three receivers added to the mix in the draft.

"Competition is something that's needed at every position," Janis said. "It brings out the best in everybody. The best guys are going to play and that's what I'm trying to show."

Janis is used to being the underdog. Coming out of Tawas (Mich.) High School, the only Division I recruiting interest came from Central Michigan, though even CMU backed off on its pursuit. Stardom wasn't immediate at Saginaw Valley State. Janis redshirted in 2009, caught nine passes in 2010 and didn't emerge as an impact player until midway through 2011.

"I've always been a little bit of an underdog throughout my career," he said. "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."

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.

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