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Jets can finally start evaluating Joe Douglas’ first draft class

The Jets are about to get a better feel for just how good of a drafter Joe Douglas is.

Though the full evaluation of Douglas’ first draft class as general manager won’t be complete for a few years, four of the Jets’ top five picks from April are set to handle key roles Sunday against the Chiefs after a handful of injuries clouded their arrival.

In a largely lost season, the Jets getting their rookies on the field and playing consistently will be one of the most important aspects of the final nine games.

“I know [Douglas] is excited to see these guys play,” coach Adam Gase said Thursday. “We’ve been waiting — I think we were one week where it was like [La’Mical] Perine might have been the only guy that was available, and that’s frustrating because we really like this draft class and we feel like these guys can help us a lot. For us to have injuries or whatever it’s been at the beginning of the year, to get all these guys out there that’s a step in the right direction.”

Left tackle Mekhi Becton, the No. 11 pick, has been the Jets’ most promising rookie, and he returned in Sunday’s loss to the Bills after missing two games with a shoulder injury. He was joined by second-round pick Denzel Mims, the wide receiver making his pro debut after hamstring injuries set him back.

jets rookies finally getting on the field together
Ashtyn DavisCorey Sipkin

Third-round pick Ashtyn Davis, who missed two games with a groin injury, played a season-high 24 defensive snaps at safety after Bradley McDougald exited the Bills game with an injury and Perine, a fourth-round pick who had his debut delayed by a sprained ankle, had his most productive game of the year.

Now the challenge is taking on more of a workload and doing it effectively, beginning Sunday against the defending Super Bowl champions.

The Jets still have more rookies yet to play — including third-round pick and pass-rusher Jabari Zuniga, who was activated from injured reserve on Wednesday — but Douglas’ ability to inject the roster with draft talent will be crucial with plenty of extra picks at the team’s disposal in the coming years.

Though sixth-round pick Braden Mann has seen plenty of action at punter — some might say too much — Mims’ long-awaited debut included four catches for 42 yards, but it all came in the first half.

“He looked like a guy playing in his first NFL game with only … six NFL practices,” Gase said. “There’s times where he did some really good things and you get really excited, and then there’s other times where it’s like you can tell they changed something up mid-route where he’s got to make a little adjustment, and it can slow him down a little bit where you can see he’s thinking, ‘Wait, what am I supposed to do?’ So, it’s just experience, reps, we’ve just got to try to just speed everything up for him as fast as possible.”

Perine handled a bigger share of snaps (40 to Frank Gore’s 16) and turned it into 11 carries for 40 yards and a touchdown plus two catches for 16 yards, though he also disappeared after halftime. He had just one touch in the second half as the Jets went down quietly with just 4 yards of offense in the second half.

Davis, meanwhile, could be thrown to the wolves on Sunday. With McDougald yet to practice this week because of a shoulder injury, Davis might be in for a big role against a dangerous offense.

“I definitely think he’s ready,” Gase said. “As far as him being a young player going against this offense, it is what it is. It’s all about game experience. It’s about going against guys like this, going against teams like this. You find out where you measure up.”

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