Over the next few months, we’ll be taking an in-depth look at each of the Jets’ rookies. We continue today with cornerback Brandin Echols.
The 23-year old Echols is listed at 5’11” and 175 pounds and was the 200th overall pick in the sixth round of this year’s draft. He was a junior college transfer to Kentucky before the 2019 season and recorded 108 tackles, 11 passes defensed and an interception in two seasons.
Echols was a three-star recruit out of high school, but ended up having to go via the junior college route as he attended Northwest Mississippi Community College to play for the Rangers. He was initially recruited as a wide receiver, but converted to cornerback before his freshman season.
In his first year, Echols started six games and recorded 34 tackles, three interceptions and five pass breakups, but then became a full time starter in 2018. In 10 starts, he had 49 tackles and six interceptions to earn NJCAA all-American second team honors.
In 2019, he transferred to Kentucky and was a two-year starter with them. He had 54 tackles and nine pass breakups in 2019 and then had 54 more tackles and an interception in 2020, but only two pass breakups.
Echols was invited to the Hula Bowl after the 2020 season and had an excellent workout at his pro day. The Jets eventually drafted him with their second of three sixth round picks.
Now let’s take a look at what Echols brings to the table, divided into categories.
Echols is a little thin and also has short arms, so perhaps doesn’t fit the prototypical criteria for an NFL cornerback. However, he impressed at his pro day with some outstanding numbers across the board.
He ran a 4.36 in the 40-yard dash and posted a 42.5-inch vertical and 136-inch broad jump. His agility numbers were also outstanding and his 13 bench press reps were not bad for his size.
Echols has primarily played on the outside in college, although his lack of length might mean he projects better to a slot cornerback role. He did play in the slot from time to time in 2020, but still less than 100 snaps.
In high school, he was also a weapon on offense as he had over 400 receiving yards and 900 rushing yards in his final season.
Echols put together some outstanding coverage numbers in 2019, as he allowed a completion on less than 50 percent of his targets and didn’t give up a single 20-yard play.
However, in 2020, his numbers weren’t as good as he gave up a catch on over 75 percent of his targets and a higher average per catch. Part of that was because he struggled in the slot, giving up 12 catches on 13 targets, but his numbers were still worse on the outside too.
Echols moves quite fluidly but can sometimes be a step slow to recover when receivers can get a clean release, so he may need to clean up his technique when sinking his hips.
In coverage at Kentucky, Echols played a lot of zone assignments and often kept the action in front of him, but also played up at the line sometimes. On this play, he was far too conservative, dropping too deep and allowing the quarterback to complete a jump ball that he couldn’t compete for.
Echols did an excellent job of anticipating and breaking up passes in 2019, but his production dropped off in that area last season. He had shown excellent timing and closing speed to break on the ball in the past.
His only interception came on this play where he dropped off into zone coverage and he also dropped two picks in 2020.
However, he did show an ability to pick off passes at the junior college level with nine interceptions in two seasons and, of course, he does have experience at the wide receiver position.
Echols has had some production as a tackler and shows a willingness to get in on plays. He forced three fumbles during his college career as he shows an ability to rip the ball out.
Echols missed several tackles in the running game but was consistent as a tackler in coverage in 2019. However, in 2020, he tackled consistently against the run but had several missed tackles in coverage. He can be inconsistent with his technique and effort at times.
As noted, Echols occasionally plays up at the line and has some ability to get his hands on his man to disrupt in press coverage.
He’s competitive at the catch-point but not much of a hitter when tackling. It will probably help him if he can add some bulk to his frame.
He had six penalties in two years at Kentucky, but two of his three penalties in 2020 were personal fouls. One was a late hit over by the sideline and the other was for taunting.
Echols shows a willingness to contribute in run support, despite the fact he typically lines up outside. He made a lot of tackles in the running game at Kentucky, albeit only a few that were close to the line of scrimmage.
One issue was that he allowed himself to be blocked out of a lot of plays and that he struggled to disengage when locked on a block.
In addition, he can get preoccupied with his coverage assignment, losing track of where the ball is. He made that mistake here, leading to a long touchdown as he vacated the side of the field that the back ran to.
Echols was rarely used as a blitzer in college, but did record the only sack of his career on this good effort play.
Echols didn’t contribute much on special teams with Kentucky, although he took some snaps at the vice position and on the field goal block unit. He had one penalty for being offside on a successful extra point.
In high school, he was a successful return man with four touchdowns in his senior year. He also got some kick return work for the Rangers, averaging 22.6 yards per return, although he did fumble once. He also blocked a field goal with them.
Echols displays some good anticipatory skills at times, closing well to make a tackle for loss on his new teammate Elijah Moore here.
Here he displays his ability to read and react in zone coverage as he passes off his man into downfield coverage and then blows up a play in the flat.
He struggled with his grades in high school, which is why he had to go the junior college route. However, that appears to be more to do with effort than intelligence because he was eventually on the Dean’s List and Academic Honor Roll at Kentucky.
As ever with a junior college transfer you never quite know whether to be encouraged by how the player overcame adversity to re-establish themselves as a draft prospect or concerned that they landed themselves in that situation in the first place.
He has admitted he came from a background which made it “tough not to get into stuff you’re not supposed to” which perhaps explains why his grades fell off.
His coaches at the junior college level said he didn’t respond well to being asked to transition to cornerback, although they noticed that he would practice extremely hard and was a good competitor on the field. He’s also made a good effort to become a better technician.
Echols went viral last season when his exaggerated flop after a shove from an opponent drew a penalty flag and his teammates pretended to give him CPR.
Clearly he has a sense of humor and is a popular teammate, but perhaps lacks the outstanding character and leadership skills many of the other offseason additions bring, so it will be interesting to see how well he fits in.
Echols hasn’t had any serious injury issues at the college level, although he was knocked out of one game last season with a head injury.
He apparently impressed the Rangers’ coaches with his toughness during a high school game where he played through an obvious ankle injury.
As noted, Echols has experience on the outside but the team might be planning to try him in the slot. He has experience in both man and zone coverages and good athletic ability, so they should see him as a good fit for their system.
None of Echols’ teammates from his college career are currently on the Jets, but a handful of his fellow rookies were with him at the Hula Bowl, including another draft pick, Jason Pinnock.
Echols brings excellent athleticism to the position but is arguably still a work in progress technically and in terms of his play recognition.
Having picked him at stage of the draft they did, the Jets probably view a player like Echols as having good potential but may not have a specific role in mind for him and will instead throw him into the mix and see where he best fits into the competition.
Echols cannot be considered a lock to make the 53-man roster because he’s facing competition from several other players, including three other rookies. If he can establish himself as someone who can play both inside and out, that might give him an edge over some of the others, but he also needs to impress on special teams to earn a role.