Well that escalated quickly.
I had this article already outlined and mostly written in my head a week ago. It was filled with a bunch of hypotheticals should Randall Cobb or Jordy Nelson miss playing time this season. With the resigning of Cobb this offseason, I was prepared to curb my enthusiasm for the Packers’ sophomore wide receivers, Davante Adams and Jeff Janis.
Jordy Nelson’s knee ligaments decided they couldn’t wait to thrust this position battle into high gear.
Before examining their individual profiles, one thing that should not be overlooked is how much the Green Bay Packers play three wide receivers at the same time. According to NFL Game Statistics Information System, the 2014 Packers ran 1003 plays in the regular season. Approximately 456 of those plays had Nelson, Cobb and Adams on the field. That percentage of 3-WR sets increases when you consider that Jarrett Boykin started Weeks 1 and 2. Green Bay threw the ball 329 times out of that particular 3 WR set (72-percent).
Let’s do this!
In this corner, from small-school, Saginaw Valley State, weighing in at 219-pounds and 6-3, Jeffrey Ronald Janis. Janis was drafted by the Packers in the seventh round of the 2014 NFL Draft. Janis played limited snaps his rookie season while being buried on the depth chart behind Cobb, Nelson, Jarrett Boykin and fellow highly touted rookie, Davante Adams.
Jeff Janis has eye-popping workout metrics across the board. Most notable are his 117.9 (98th-percentile) Height Adjusted Speed Score, 10.62 (97th-percentile) Agility Score, and a 10.37 (99th-percentile) Catch Radius.
Jeff Janis was truly dominant in NCAA Division II competition for two years in a row. Even with limited receptions in his sophomore year, he showed a knack for scoring with 14 touchdowns on 48 receptions. In his collegiate career, Janis averaged 97.8 yards and just over 1 touchdown per game.
Janis could easily serve as a body double to his injured teammate. He will be the biggest starting wide receiver on the field for Aaron Rodgers. Similar to the Packers tendency to play three wide receivers they also don’t rotate their skill position players. The starting group of Aaron Rodgers, Eddie Lacy, Davante Adams, Randall Cobb, Jordy Nelson, Andrew Quarless played more of the Green Bay snaps in 2014 than any other NFL team skill position group by a fairly large margin.
Battling Janis for the starting split end role opposite Green Bay’s established flanker, Randall Cobb, is Davante Adams. Adams is 6-1 and 212-pounds. Drafted in the mid-2nd round by Green Bay, Adams succeeded in the Derek Carr led Fresno State offense. Not particularly fast or agile, Davante Adams closely compares to the Seahawks’ Jermaine Kearse.
Davante Adams compiled monster statistical games against Idaho, Nevada-Las Vegas, New Mexico and San Jose State. Those games prop up his mediocre 13.8 (26th-percentile) yards per reception from being even lower. As you can see from his final season game log, he averaged 10 YPR or less in 8 of 13 games.
Davante Adams didn’t do much to dispel his compiler like stats in his rookie season with the Packers. Davante took over for the ineffective Jarrett Boykin after Week 2. While garnering 66 targets in 14 games, Adams posted extremely poor production and efficiency considering he plays with one of the best quarterbacks in the game.
Jordy Nelson’s injury has changed my view on this situation in regards to 2015. I have no doubt that the Packers front office has a desire to have their 2nd round pick succeed. Davante Adams will be given every opportunity to show what he can do (and not do).
However, given their proclivity to play three wide receivers, Jeff Janis will see, at minimum, similar playing time to what Adams did last year. Given Janis’ size and speed it won’t be long before the younger clone of Jordy Nelson will command targets from Aaron Rodgers. Janis has almost three weeks to get comfortable with the first team offense and gain trust from Rodgers.
Both players will be fantasy relevant this season. True to form, the Davante Adams hype machine was thrown into high gear as soon as the Jordy Nelson injury news broke. If you were drafting Adams in the 9th round, good news. He will probably return that value. But now Adams appears to be going as early as the 4th round. His efficiency at both the college and pro level does not support this level of expectation.
I’ll take the supreme athlete with the later round pick and reap the benefits of this unexpected opportunity.
Good fight, good night.
Aaron Butler is an unapologetic New England Patriots fan and a contributor for RotoViz and PlayerProfiler.
Follow him: @RIPatriot