Why Jeff Janis Will Save Your Fantasy Football Season

Jordy Nelson is out for the season, but his replacement may be your fantasy savior.

I recently started rewatching the U.S. version of The Office, and I just got through the second season again. When Jim (the romantic lead, played by John Krasinski) confides in Michael (the manager, played by Steve Carell) that he's in love with one of their coworkers who is engaged to a jerk, Michael gives him some simple, yet inspirational advice. He responds, “Well, if you like her so much, then don’t give up. B.F.D. Never, ever, ever give up.”

Sometimes the simplest advice is the best advice.

Michael Scott’s words of wisdom also apply to you and your fantasy seasons. We’re still two weeks away from real NFL action, and some people are already considering throwing in the towel because of injuries to players like Jordy Nelson. I repeat: never, ever, ever give up. Just because Jordy is done for the year doesn’t mean the Packers won’t still have three fantasy-relevant wide receivers. 

And I like the Packers’ high-octane offense so much that I believe that you can get a player who might save your fantasy season off of the waiver wire in most leagues. I’ll admit it: I’m in love with Jeff Janis, and I have no plans on giving up on him.

Don’t Stop Believing

Why am I so intent on Jeff Janis being the savior of your fantasy fortunes? The first reason has everything to do with opportunity. As I explained earlier this week in my article on the Packers’ likely scenarios this season without Nelson, there are about 75-100 targets to spare in the Green Bay offense this year. We could reasonably expect whoever wins the third receiver job in Green Bay to receive about two-thirds of those. This role has averaged about 77 targets a season for the Packers over the last five years, so if Janis can seize it, he has a solid path to playing time this year.

His main competition is rookie Ty Montgomery, who was expecting to mainly handle return duties in his first season in the league. Despite Janis being the first player off the bench after Nelson went down, many beat reporters are writing Montgomery’s name into the position for sure, claiming that the team sees Janis as “too inconsistent” to contribute as a starter.

Still, the team itself has said that Janis has shown incredible growth between last season and this one. It’s shown in preseason games, to the tune of five receptions for 66 yards and a touchdown, though he was targeted 11 times and had a few crucial drops.

Yet, I still think he’s worthy of that roster spot you vacated after Nelson’s injury. Why?

I Believe I Can Fly

Jordy Nelson is a unique player in the NFL because he has the immense size of a classic possession and red zone receiver, but the speed of a more precision-based receiver. Add in the fact that (arguably) the best quarterback in the league is throwing him the ball, and you’ll understand why Nelson has had one of the greatest four year stretches of production in history.

That said, if you’re looking to approximate the value of a unique talent, perhaps we can look at the innate talent itself as a clue. The table below shows Jordy Nelson and Jeff Janis’s NFL Combine numbers, comparing them on a purely athletic level. Is Jeff Janis even half of what Jordy was as a physical marvel?

Player H/W 40 Yard Bench Vert Broad Shuttle 3-Cone
Jordy Nelson 6’3”/217 lb. 4.51 N/A 31” 10’03” 4.35 7.03
Jeff Janis 6’3”/219 lb. 4.42 20 37.5” 10’03” 3.98 6.64

As we can see, Janis is not only Nelson’s equal in many ways, he actually bests him in the athletic department on almost all counts. They have nearly the same physique, but Janis runs exceptionally well for his size – a red zone jump-ball specialist with the grace of a speed slot.

Just as a reference, let’s compare him to the other Green Bay receivers vying for a spot on the team. Is Janis really this unique?

Player H/W 40 Yard Bench Vert Broad Shuttle 3-Cone
Jeff Janis 6’3”/219 lb. 4.42 20 37.5” 10’03” 3.98 6.64
Davante Adams 6’1”/212 lb. 4.56 14 39.5” 10’03” 4.30 6.82
Ty Montgomery 6’1”/221 lb. 4.55 N/A 40.5” 10’01” 4.21 6.97
Myles White 6’0”/182 lb. 4.42 11 37.5” 10’01” 4.15 6.90
Jared Abbrederis 6’1”/195 lb. 4.50 4 30.5” 9’09” 4.08 6.80

No one else has the kind of size-speed-strength trifecta that Janis naturally possesses, not across the board the way he does. We can see that Adams and Montgomery are physically imposing in their own right, but Janis has it all going on from an athletic standpoint.

Now, this is not to say that Janis is the second coming of Jordy Nelson. Where they differ is the fact that Nelson sets up defenders extremely well while running routes, and has great hands, especially with players coming in to make a hit on him. Janis will still at times make the mental mistakes that should be minutiae in order for him to thrive in the league. I give him a slight pass, however, being that this is a highly precision-based offense and he is a small-school receiver in only his second year in the league.

Will his coaches give him a pass, however, and overlook some of these early-season errors for his physical talent?

Never Gonna Give You Up

As a final note, I looked up Jeff Janis’s physical comparables on to see whose physical profiles he most compared to, and whether a player of this kind of stature could expect to develop normally. His top comps max out at 77.1%, and many go up to the middle or high 80s; yet another example that his natural ability is special.

Since two of the top-five players were drafted just this year (Kevin White and Tre McBride), we have no data on them in the numberFire database. The others, though, we can look up and compare based on their production by our signature metric, Net Expected Points (NEP). NEP helps us take the numbers we get from the box score and assign them contextual value so they relate even closer to the game on the field. By adding down-and-distance value, we can see just how much each play and each team as a whole influence the outcome of games. For more info on NEP, check out our glossary.

The table below shows the production of the top five most similar players to Janis, based on physical profile, in terms of average career Reception NEP and Target NEP. I also classify them by years in the league, and their similarity to Janis’s physical profile.

Player Sim% Years Rec NEP Per-Play Target NEP Catch Rate
Junior Hemingway 77.1% 2 9.05 0.45 2.48 62.50%
Stephen Williams 75.9% 2 4.18 0.31 -3.76 33.33%
Anthony Gonzalez 75.9% 4 30.86 0.88 19.62 70.21%
Javon Walker 75.4% 7 50.80 0.74 16.35 55.51%
Travis Wilson 74.0% 1 3.24 0.54 -2.63 33.33%

There are essentially two ways to look at this table. The first could be considered the “glass half-empty” approach, where we see busts riddling this table, including Junior Hemingway, Stephen Williams, and Travis Wilson, and notice that these players were drafted in the middle or late rounds. Then there is the “glass half-full” approach, where we see the quality production of Anthony Gonzalez and Javon Walker as Janis’s potential in the potent offense of the Packers -- just as great an offense as the early 2000’s Indianapolis Colts, or that iteration of the Packers.

It depends on which perspective you want to take. Per Fantasy Football Calculator, Janis is essentially going undrafted in most leagues (at 14.02), and has actually gradually fallen from the back end of the 13th to his current ADP. At that value, if he has even the slimmest chance of becoming Gonzalez or Walker, I want a piece of that action.