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2023 NFL Draft prospect profile - Lukas Van Ness, DL/EDGE, Iowa

How broad is Van Ness’ fit in the NFL?

NFL: Combine Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

It isn’t terribly unusual for a player who was a depth player in college to be drafted into the NFL.

It is, however, unusual for a player without any starts to be drafted in the first round. But we will likely see that in the 2023 NFL Draft with Iowa defender Lukas Van Ness. Van Ness is highly regarded after two good years at Iowa and an impressive draft process. But he was also a part-time player in Iowa’s defense, even by defensive line standards.

However, Van Ness is certainly impressive whenever he’s on the field, and that’s powered his rise up draft boards.

At this point he’s unlikely to be around when the New York Giants draft at 25th overall, but he could help address their need at defensive line and edge.

Prospect: Lukas Van Ness (91)
Games Watched: vs. Iowa State (2022), vs. Michigan (2022), vs. Ohio State (2022)


Courtesy Kent Lee Platt (@mathbomb) |

Career Stats

Games Played: 26
Tackles: 70
Tackles for a loss: 19.0
Sacks: 13.0
Passes defensed: 1

2022 Stats

Games Played: 13
Tackles: 37
Tackles for a loss: 10.5
Sacks: 6.0
Passes defensed: 0

Quick Summary

Best: Size, length, play strength, competitive toughness, athleticism
Worst: Speed counter, lower body fluidity
Projection: A starting defensive lineman or EDGE with scheme versatility.

Game Tape

(Van Ness is Iowa DE/EDGE number 91)

Full Report

Iowa edge defender Lukas Van Ness is a big, long, athletic, and powerful defensive prospect.

Van Ness has a rare combination of size, length, and athleticism for the position, standing 6-foot-5, 272, and 34-inch arms – as well as a 4.58-second 40 yard dash and a 7-second 3-cone drill. That blend of size and athleticism allowed Van Ness to line up all over the Iowa defensive line. He played every position from a stand-up defensive end to nose tackle, depending on the down, distance, and play call.

Van Ness relied heavily on his impressive play strength and length as a pass rusher. He made frequent use of a potent bull rush as his go-to move, and incorporated a long-arm move on occasion as a counter. While Van Ness is an unsophisticated rusher, he gave blockers headaches. He has truly impressive power and generally played with good leverage, which was often enough to drive offensive linemen into the backfield. He also generally did a good job of fitting his hands inside blockers’ framework and using his length to keep his body clean.

Van Ness played similarly as a run defender as a pass rusher. He used his size and power to set a firm edge, while his length and play strength allowed him to make plays off of blockers. Van Ness is a very hard hitter and rarely allowed yards after contact.

The single biggest question regarding Van Ness’ game doesn’t have anything to do with what he did on the field, but rather why he wasn’t on the field.

Van Ness didn’t start a single game for Iowa, and was clearly a part-time player during games. It would be whole series before he was rotated onto the field, and then would be absent from the field for long stretches of time throughout the game. Teams will need to do their due diligence to find out exactly why this is the case. It wouldn’t be fair to let the fact influence his overall evaluation without knowing precisely why Iowa’s coaches used him as they did, but it’s curious to say the least.

As far as what Van Ness did on the field, he is purely a power rusher, with little finesse to his game. And while that was often effective, Van Ness lacked answers when blockers were prepared for his power. He’s an athletic defender, particularly for his size, and adding a true speed counter would open up his game, even if he only rarely used it.

Van Ness is somewhat stiff compared to other modern edge players and doesn’t really have the ability to bend the edge like a 245 pound player. He can also struggle to change directions quickly in tight quarters, leading to some poor angles when trying to make a tackle. That will also limit how he’s used, and teams will need to understand his strengths and weaknesses when incorporating him into their schemes.

Overall Grade: 8.2


Lukas Van Ness projects as a starting defensive lineman at the NFL level with some scheme and positional versatility.

Van Ness will likely be at his best as a down lineman in a 4-3 front, though he has the length and strength to be a 5-technique in a 3-man front, and the athleticism to be a stand-up rusher in a hybrid or multiple front. Regardless, teams will want Van Ness on the line of scrimmage and playing downhill as often as possible. He was occasionally asked to drop into coverage and didn’t look bad, though he shouldn’t be expected to keep up with running backs or tight ends in space.

Van Ness is a player who knows who he is, and doesn’t try to be anything else. He was nicknamed “Hercules” at Iowa, his play strength certainly lives up to the moniker. That is, however, something of a double-edged sword, and NFL tackles will be able to deal with a pure power rusher who lacks a speed counter. Van Ness has the athleticism to add a speed element to his game, and should seek to do so – though he’ll always be a power-first player.

Teams will obviously want to do their due diligence to find out why Van Ness didn’t play more than he did, and the answer could impact his final grade. Based purely on his on-field play, Van Ness is a high-floor, high-ceiling prospect who shouldn’t have to wait long to hear his name called.