In early January of 2023, Iowa Hawkeyes’ redshirt sophomore defensive lineman, Lukas Van Ness declared for the 2023 NFL Draft.
After making the switch from defensive tackle to the end position during the Spring 2022 season, Van Ness has established himself as a potential first round draft pick in the upcoming NFL Draft.
After redshirting in 2020, Lukas Van Ness put together two very impressive seasons in his two years of action for the Hawkeyes, appearing in 27 total games between the two seasons. During his redshirt freshman season, the 2021-2022 season, Lukas Van Ness appeared in 14 games. During that time he compiled 33 total tackles, which included 17 solo tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, and 7 sacks.
After making the switch from defensive tackle to becoming an edge rusher prior to the 2022-2023 season, Van Ness adjusted very well to the new position. Appearing in 13 games in 2022-2023, Lukas Van Ness would compile 38 total tackles, including 17 solo tackles, 11 tackles for loss, and 6.5 sacks. He would have career highs in sacks with 1.5 against both Nevada, on September 17, 2022, and Purdue, on November 5, 2022.
He would also have career highs in tackles for loss and total tackles in that September matchup against Nevada, with 2.5 and 8. Van Ness also added two blocked kicks in 2022, which ranked sixth nationally. All of these achievements earned Lukas Van Ness second team All-Big Ten accolades.
Expect Lukas Van Ness to be the 4th or 5th Edge taking in the 2023 NFL Draft
— Mister Irrelevant (@Mr1rrelevant) February 22, 2023
Despite appearing in 27 games during his two years of action for the Hawkeyes, Lukas Van Ness did not start a single game in college. With that said, the edge rusher has been picked in multiple mock drafts in the first round. ESPN’s Matt Miller has graded Van Ness as one of only 20 players in this year’s draft class to receive a first-round grade. At 6’5” 275 pounds, it is Van Ness’ agility and quickness that have really grabbed the attention of scouts.
NFL’s Next Gen Stats currently have given Lukas Van Ness a prospect grade of 6.38, projecting him to one day be a plus starter in the NFL. These grades range from 5.6, which projects a bottom of the roster or practice squad player, all the way to 8.0, which is reserved for “the perfect prospect”. NFL.com does provide a list of strengths and weaknesses that were taken into account when grading Van Ness.
The more I look into him, the more I think Iowa EDGE #91 Lukas Van Ness feels like such a Packers type
— Hogg (@HoggNFL) February 21, 2023
Beginning with the weaknesses, his forward lean can be countered by blockers, he is inconsistent with hand use to shed blockers and needs more work on schooling up hands as a rusher, he hasn’t learned to make the transition from bull rusher to closer, his foot quickness for inside rush moves is average, his transition to changing directions is too slow, and he was ineffective as an interior rusher.
Now that those weaknesses are out of the way, Lukas Van Ness has quite the list of strengths, which is why he could hear his name called in the first round of the NFL Draft.
Those strengths include, outstanding lean muscle mass, his ability to explode out of his stance, gaining a quick advantage in the neutral zone, in-game strength to anchor and pressure the blocker as a two-gapper, hip power to battle through angle blocks, his vision for runners as well as timing to disengage with the blocker to make tackles, wide alignment creates momentum when bull rushing.
His long-arm rush move allows for a strong pocket push, he keeps pushing forward and has shown exceptional secondary rush efforts, and his agility helps corral the more mobile quarterbacks, keeping them from scrambling to make big plays.
When looking at scouts’ breakdowns of Lukas Van Ness, it is astonishing to think that he did not start a single game in his two seasons of action for the Iowa Hawkeyes. It is very rare to see a college player drafted that never started a game, let alone drafted in the first round.
There is a long list of reasons advocating for Van Ness to be a high draft pick in the 2023 NFL Draft but given the fact that he was a backup during his time as a Hawkeye definitely speaks volumes to the talent that Iowa has on its team, defense especially.
While multiple early mock drafts have Lukas Van Ness being selected in the first round, it will be very interesting to see his performance in the upcoming NFL Scouting Combine, which will take place Tuesday, February 28-Monday, March 6, 2023.
Should Van Ness have a strong showing in comparison to the rest of the defensive lineman at the combine, he will only make scouts even more sure that he is deserving of a first round selection in the 2023 NFL Draft.
Three DL you’ll start hearing more buzz about after the NFL Scouting Combine- Tyree Wilson, Lukas Van Ness & Keion White. pic.twitter.com/qTAuIOHytp
— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) February 21, 2023