With the 2023 NFL draft just around the coned I wanted to take a look at arguably the biggest riser across all draft boards and the best sleeper pick, defensive end Lukas Van Ness.
Who is Van Ness though? Van Ness is a redshirt sophomore from Iowa university who is 6’5” defensive end weighing in at 272 pounds. What’s interesting about Van Ness is that he didn’t say start any contest for the Hawkeyes however still acquired 11 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks among his 38 tackles in 13 games played, along with second team big 10 honors. These aren’t numbers that exactly jump off the board but when you look at his raw tools, that is what interests scouts around the league.
Van Ness is the definition of a power rusher, excelling in pass rush and run defense. His frame is one of the best in the class earning him the nickname Hercules in college. He’s an agile defender and has a very strong lower half, helping him with his movement and excelling in the run stoppage, he also has a very good timing chip helping him with his timing.
So when scouts see a high strength, nimble defensive end who looks like Hercules and can use his speed to create a bull rush attack; scouts are going to like to see that, therefore why Van Ness has gone from a likely day 2 pick to now being projected to go mid 1st round.
As to his weaknesses since not all prospects are perfect. Van Ness in particular has a huge problem with his hands as he is inconsistent when it comes to his block shedding movement. Concerning his development as a rusher, Van Ness is only a one trick pony as he’s only developed as a bull rusher and needs to work on being a closer (where his lack of being an interior rusher comes into play.) His only other problem comes down to his feet which are only average but it should be an easy fix as his athleticism makes up for it.
Van Ness has only two years of college ball under his belt so don’t expect him to be perfect right away. But, with 1-2 years of professional development under his belt and the raw talent that he possesses, expect him to be one of the most consistent power rushers in a few years and to join the likes of Josey Jewell, Desmond King and Micah Hyde as notable defensive players drafted from Iowa in the past decade and hopefully being the 4th Hawkeyes defender drafted in the first round since 1967.