Iowa Hawkeyes edge rusher Lukas Van Ness is one of the top pass-rushers in the 2023 NFL Draft class. He may not be Will Anderson Jr., Jalen Carter, or Tyree Wilson, but Van Ness is in the very next tier of edge rushing prospects.
When it comes to power rushers, Van Ness is among the best in the business, yet he’s also very large and quick, giving him one of the highest ceilings among defenders in this year’s prospect pool. But he’s no sure thing either.
Like every other incoming NFL Draft prospect, Van Ness has strengths that could help him become one of the best players among his peers. Yet, he also has weaknesses that could lead to becoming a draft bust. That’s the gamble of the draft. Below we’ll get into the pluses and minuses of Van Ness.
Lukas Van Ness measurables
- Lukas Van Ness height: 6-foot-5
- Lukas Van Ness weight: 272 pounds
- Lukas Van Ness 40 time: 4.58 seconds
Let’s dive into our Lukas Van Ness scouting report and NFL projection.
Lukas Van Ness stats and background
Lukas Van Ness may look like an NFL player today, but coming out of Barrington High School, colleges weren’t so sure of his talent, where 247 Sports had the Illinois native ranked as a three-star recruit.
Related: 2023 NFL defense rankings
After redshirting his freshman year with the Hawkeyes, Van Ness quickly showed his value, working at defensive end and defensive tackle, where he’d record seven sacks. He continued this production in his next and final season while also adding two blocked kicks, proving his length (34-inch arms) is a problem for opponents.
|Lukas Van Ness stats||Tackles||Sacks|
|2021||33 (8.5 TFL)||7|
|2022||37 (10.5 TFL)||6|
While Van Ness showed he is capable of playing along the interior or off the edge, his best fit in the NFL will be as a defensive end/outside linebacker, where he can focus on chasing QBs out of the pocket. What’s amazing is Van Ness wasn’t even a starter at Iowa, yet he still managed to terrorize opponents on his way to becoming a top draft prospect.
Lukas Van Ness scouting report
As mentioned, Lukas Van Ness wins by having a powerful bull rush that opponents simply can’t handle. But he’s also been criticized for not having a more versatile attack plan as a rusher, where defenders at the next level may eventually catch on to his tactics.
But for now, the one they call “Hercules” has a quick first step and understands leverage well, where he frequently pushes his opponent into the QB’s lap. While recording 13 sacks in college is solid, Pro Football Focus actually graded Van Ness better as a run-stuffer than as a pass rusher.
Per PFF, Van Ness’s run defense grade came in at 80.9, which is an elite mark, yet his pass-rush win rate was at 18.8%, also elite. Showing that he can hold his own in both aspects while still having plenty of room to grow as he develops a deeper well of pass-rushing moves, Van Ness is widely expected to land in the first round, possibly even in the first 10 or 15 picks.
Van Ness will likely continue adding mass while gaining a greater understanding of how to vary his pass rush sets, which should lead to more consistency. Yet, scouts have to love what they see so far.
- Lukas Van Ness draft grade: 77/100
- Lukas Van Ness draft projection: First-round pick
NFL projection for Lukas Van Ness
As is, Lukas Van Ness has double-digit sack potential. Despite being a bit one-dimensional with his approach, his bull rush is good enough to get him in the backfield on multiple occasions. Yet, if Van Ness only thrives off one move, he’ll struggle to earn a starting role at the next level too.
We don’t anticipate that happening. Players this big, this quick, and who also produced as much as Van Ness did in college should have no issue translating to the next level. But the pick does not come without risk.
Van Ness has this great bull rush, but putting up just 17 reps on the bench press came as a surprise. In this case, we’ll take the on-tape production proof over the strength test, which he’ll never be asked to do on an NFL field.
As far as Van Ness’s NFL landing spot, he could come into play at No. 8 for the Atlanta Falcons, at No. 9 for the Chicago Bears, No. 10 for the Philadelphia Eagles, or even 11th or 12th to the Tennessee Titans and Houston Texans. Edge rushers who are big, strong, fast, and productive at getting after QBs or showing up in rushing lanes don’t come around often, so Van Ness should draw a lot of attention on draft day.