Jeff Janis Is Ready to Take the Next Step in Fantasy Football
When Jeff Janis caught a 41-yard Hail Mary to tie up the Green Bay Packers' Divisional Round playoff game against the Arizona Cardinals this past postseason, it was an amazing moment on many levels. For starters, there was the obvious real football implications, giving the Packers a shot at advancing to the NFC title game (they lost in overtime). But it was also an epic moment for all of the Janis truthers who had touted him as a prospect, and waited (patiently?) for his arrival on the NFL stage.
But once the smoke cleared and the season was over, one question loomed over the mercurial young wide receiver:
Will he be relevant in 2016?
Well, there's reason to believe that Janis is draftable this season in fantasy football, taking a step in both real and fake football. Here's why.
An Elite Performance
As I already eluded to, Janis made a tremendous play in a huge game for the Packers. The aforementioned Hail Mary was actually his second long catch of the game, and he finished the contest with 7 receptions, 145 yards, and 2 touchdowns.
But did you know that was the best performance by a Packer wideout all season?
Above are the top-10 performances by a Packers wide receiver in 2015 sorted by Reception Net Expected Points.
On every play, there's an expected point value an NFL team has for the drive based on yard line, down, and distance. What happens on that play can change the expected point value on said drive. What NEP does is aggregate the values gained or lost on every play into a single, net number.
You can read more about NEP in our glossary.
Reception NEP is simply the NEP aggregated through receptions.
In addition to Janis having the highest single-game Reception NEP, he also had the most receiving yards of any Packers wideout in any game this season. The second-best game in either statistic came from James Jones' Week 3 performance against Kansas City. His 139 yards was the only other performance within 25 yards of Janis, and he was almost an entire six points off in terms of Reception NEP. That speaks to just how dominant a performance he had.
One of the major reasons people have slobbered over Janis' potential the last few years is his absurd athleticism. In case you forgot, here's a snapshot of it below compared to the rest of the Packer wideouts (I'm not including Jordy Nelson because he's firmly entrenched as a starter).
As you can see, Janis owns the best height, 40-yard dash time, and agility score (shuttle plus 3-cone) of this cohort. He also has the best Dominator Rating, which is the average of a player's market share of receiving yards and touchdowns for his respective team. Granted, Janis played at the lowest level school of the group (Saginaw Valley State), but it at least shows the he is a capable football talent along with being an outrageous athlete.
Between his outstanding performance in the biggest game of the year, and his fantastic collegiate profile, Janis should be in a great position to be the team's WR3 when the season opens.
Opportunity + Rodgers = Fantasy Value
The obvious follow up to this is, just how much is being the Packers WR3 worth? The following table shows how many targets Green Bay's WR3 has received over the past seven seasons.
This gives us a nice range of possible outcomes. Donald Driver sets the lower bound of the range for us, with his 56 targets (10 percent) being a possible outcome for Janis if he can't separate himself clearly from Ty Montgomery and company, much like how Driver failed separate from James Jones. If he can clearly establish himself as the WR3, though, we may see him get closer to the 100-target threshold, much like Davante Adams did last season.
We obviously aren't talking about a massive target load here, but we also have to factor in that these targets will be coming from Aaron Rodgers, someone who has made countless wideouts relevant for fantasy football. Consider also, for a moment, that Nelson had over 1,200 yards and 15 touchdowns in 2011 on just 96 targets, and that Jones had 14 touchdowns in 2012 on 98 targets.
I'm not saying that Janis is as talented as Nelson, who is one of the best wide receivers in all of football, but this emphasizes just how much Rodgers-led wide receivers can do on somewhat limited work, and the idea of Janis being better than Jones really isn't that outlandish.
Janis has been a polarizing player to follow since he was drafted by the Packers in 2014. However, this is the year I think he can take a huge step forward and become a fantasy viable wide receiver. The best part, you can get him at a cheap price -- Janis is going outside of the top 200 picks in recent best ball leagues on MyFantasyLeague.com, and he's currently going as WR67 on Fantasy Football Calculator.
The bottom line here is that Janis is cheap exposure to the Packer offense, and he could pay off in a massive way in 2016.