Lukas Van Ness is one of the fastest-rising players in the 2023 NFL Draft. Declaring earlier than expected, can the Iowa product solidify himself as a day-one selection?
Name: Lukas Van Ness
Position: Defensive Lineman
Age: 21 (July 6, 2001)
Weight: 275 pounds*
Lukas Van Ness 2023 NFL Draft Scouting Report
Lukas Van Ness was born and raised in Barrington, Illinois, a small town about an hour away from Chicago. He was the team captain for the football team and a three-time letterman in hockey.
Van Ness earned a three-star rating on the recruiting scene, resulting in offers from a handful of D1 programs. Ultimately, the star defensive lineman chose the Iowa Hawkeyes to continue his career on the gridiron.
With Iowa, Van Ness won Freshman All-American honors and appeared twice on the Academic All-Big Ten team. As far as on-field play goes, Van Ness flashed high-end potential while playing sparingly in 2021.
In 2022, the still-ascending pass rusher saw the field more and turned it into his best season on campus. Van Ness recorded 29 QB hurries and eight sacks while improving his PFF grade on run defense from 60.8 to 79.5.
His tape saw Van Ness line up all across the defensive line. The athleticism translates to the edge, while his power holds up when attacking from the interior. This versatility makes Van Ness a darling in the eyes of some NFL Draft scouts.
Is a guy who rarely started in college worth a day-one selection? A detailed scouting report on Lukas Van Ness attempts to answer this question!
•Bull Rush – The best trait for Van Ness coming out of Iowa is his dominant bull rush. The Iowa pass rusher uses pure power to knock opposing linemen off balance, routinely pushing them back into the pocket and effectively collapsing it. With power, Van Ness won more than he lost.
•Versatility – As stated, Van Ness’ tape is littered with several different alignments. In the NFL, he projects as a player who can line up as far inside as the three-technique, while also displaying the arm length to set the edge outside. An NFL defensive coordinator will have fun moving this chess piece around.
•Prototypical Size – In a draft class with several players failing to check the box physically, Lukas Van Ness stands out. He is chiseled from stone and was born to harass opposing quarterbacks.
•High Football IQ – Van Ness is a model student, and those smarts follow him to the football field. He diagnoses plays well and reacts quickly to make the stop.
•Special Teams Contributor – Van Ness blocked two punts in the same game during his Iowa Hawkeye career. Dating back to high school, he has been a difference-maker for the unit. NFL coaches love a player that can impact the game from special teams.
•High Motor – Van Ness never once looked gassed on tape. Although he played less than most of his peers, it is still impressive to see a player of his size maintain a high energy level throughout. The effort Van Ness gives on a snap-by-snap basis will win over anyone who watches.
•Potential – Van Ness committed to more of an edge-rushing role in 2022 and looked like a natural. Having spent the beginning of his career playing from the inside, it shows the NFL that he is capable of adding tools to the toolbox. An offseason or two with some legitimate NFL coaching should unlock the untapped potential of Van Ness.
•Experience – One glaring red flag in the Lukas Van Ness evaluation is his relative lack of starting experience. After redshirting in 2020, he gradually saw the field more in 2021 and 2022. Still, without a proven track record of playing more than 500 snaps in a season, it will remain a red flag throughout the process.
•Finesse Pass Rush Moves – Van Ness boasts the best bull rush in the 2023 NFL Draft. However, the Iowa pass rusher lacks finesse moves to mix in. As a player that strictly wins from his power on the collegiate level, it won’t be as easy to push folks around in the NFL. He must add more to the pass-rushing bag.
•Bend – For a man of his size, Van Ness bends well enough on most snaps. The issue for me is the snaps where he comes in with a high pad level. It gives opposing offensive linemen an easy target when Van Ness leads with his chest. He must become more consistent in coming off the edge effectively.
•Run Defense – Labeling the run defense as a weakness is more centered on his 2021 tape than his 2022 tape. In 2021, Van Ness set up shop primarily on the interior, and it did not bode well for his run-stopping ability. When he moved out to the edge, his grade substantially shot up in this department. Can Van Ness hold up as a run defender inside? He must prove it.
2023 NFL Draft Grade
•Fringe-Day One (No. 26 on my Big Board)
Lukas Van Ness is a tough projection to the NFL. He is raw in many areas, but the power he plays with cannot be taught. The Iowa pass rusher will need patience early in his career as he learns the ropes, but we could look up in five years with Van Ness being a top player from the 2023 NFL Draft. The potential makes him a fringe day-one prospect on my Big Board.
Games Evaluated: 10