5 things to know about Packers’ first-round pick Lukas Van Ness

The Green Bay Packers used the 13th pick in the 2023 NFL draft on Iowa edge rusher Lukas Van Ness, a hulking edge rusher with a fitting nickname and the unliimited potential associated with being an elite athlete at a premium position.

While he wore No. 91 at Iowa, Van Ness will wear No. 90 for the Packers. He could be an immediate contributor, both on the edge and as an interior rusher for the Packers as a rookie.

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Here are five interesting things to know about Van Ness, the Packers’ first-round pick in 2023:

Zero starts, but...

Iowa freshman defensive lineman Lukas Van Ness

Van Ness didn’t start a single game at Iowa because he was an underclassman playing behind a few fifth-year seniors at a program that prefers to start upperclassmen. But don’t let the zero in Van Ness’ start column distract from his overall production: He still played almost 950 defensive snaps over two years while creating 19.5 tackles for loss, 13.5 sacks, 19 quarterback hits, 74 total pressures and 32 stops. As a sophomore in 2022, Van Ness had multiple pressures in 12 of 13 games and led the Hawkeyes in sacks and tackles for loss. According to PFF, his pass-rush win rate this past season was 18.8. No starts, but Van Ness was a dominant player for Iowa over 27 games.


Nickname: Hercules

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Tough to beat “Hercules” as a nickname for an edge rusher. Van Ness said the nickname originated from Iowa defensive lineman Noah Shannon and is the result of all his hard work in the weight room. Over three years at Iowa, he put on almost 50 pounds and is now a rock-solid 275 pounds at 6-5. Van Ness certainly looks the part, and his game is all about power. He plays low despite his height and packs a punch as a bull-rusher.

Versatility along defensive line

. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Van Ness played over 90 percent of his snaps on the inside between the tackles as a redshirt freshman in 2021, but he moved outside and played on the edge for over 300 snaps in 2022. The Packers believe he can do both at the next level, giving him valuable versatility as a stand-up edge rusher and hand-in-the-dirt interior pass-rusher. His size, power and athleticism provide the right set of traits for work on the edge and life inside.


In fact, the Packers see parallels in the versatility potential of Van Ness and the way Za’Darius Smith was used in Green Bay.

Van Ness said he’s most comfortable playing on the edge.

“That’s where I feel like I can use my tools and excel,” Van Ness said post-draft. “Use my length on the edge, use my power and just really impact the game to help this team win.”

Explosive athleticism

Van Ness will enter the NFL as one of the league’s most athletic edge rushers. At the combine, he produced a 98th percentile 10-yard split and 91st percentile three-cone drill, highlighting his incredible short-area burst at over 270 pounds. There just aren’t many NFL players with his size who also have the straight-line speed and agility numbers. Overall, his athletic profile compares favorably with Trey Hendrickson, who produced over 30 sacks and made back-to-back Pro Bowl appearances over the last three seasons. Preston Smith is another top comp. Athleticism isn’t everything, but it’s a big piece of the puzzle at edge rusher. As an elite athlete at a premium position, Van Ness has tremendous upside.


Hockey player turned football star

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The football version of Happy Gilmore? Van Ness was a hockey player growing up in Illinois, but he made the switch to football entering high school and never looked back. Then again, Van Ness played only two seasons of varsity football in high school and two years of collegiate football at Iowa. His relative lack of experience on the gridiron is at least part of the reason why the Packers believe he has sky-high potential. With more snaps and in-game experience, Van Ness could take off as a player.

Story originally appeared on Packers Wire