6. Brandin Echols, CB, NY Jets
Most people took one look at the Jets' cornerback group entering the 2021 season and assumed the worst. And how could they not? The Jets were projected to start a second-year fifth-round pick and rookie fifth and sixth-round picks at the position.
Expectations were about as low as they could get. That's what made the emergence of players like Brandin Echols all the more surprising.
Echols had his fair share of rookie ups and downs, that much was obvious. But the former Kentucky star went on to start all 14 games he played and held his own for the most part.
The highlight of his rookie season was undoubtedly his Week 15 performance that netted him Rookie of the Week honors. Echols recorded a highlight-reel pick-six and finished with a Pro Football Focus coverage grade of 93.3 that was the fifth-highest by a cornerback in any game that season.
He allowed just one catch for nine yards on four targets and had a passer rating of 0.0 when targeted. It was perhaps the best game by any Jets player this past season.
Again, he was far from lights out all year. But Echols proved that he deserves a role on defense next season. Anytime you can find a sixth-round pick who holds his own starting 14 games as a rookie, that has to be considered a welcomed surprise.