2023 NFL Draft

2023 NFL Draft Player Profiles: Iowa DL Lukas Van Ness

From now until the 2023 NFL Draft takes place, we hope to scout and create profiles for as many prospects as possible, examining their strengths, weaknesses, and what they can bring to an NFL franchise. These players could be potential top 10 picks, all the way down to Day 3 selections and priority undrafted free agents Today, I’ll be profiling Iowa DL Lukas Van Ness.

#91 Lukas Van Ness, DL, Iowa (R-Sophomore) – 6050, 270lb


Player Ht/Wt Hand Size Arm Length Wingspan
Lukas Van Ness 6’5, 270lb N/A N/A N/A
40-Yard Dash 10-Yard Dash Short Shuttle 3-Cone
Broad Jump Vertical Bench Press

The Good

— Great size and length, having a big, athletic frame
— Has good play speed and explosiveness for his size
— Comfortable playing as a standup edge rusher or wit his hand in the dirt
— Has played inside over the guard as well as out on the edge
— Shows great pursuit to the football, having the open field speed and closing burst to track down ballcarriers
— High-effort defender that plays to and through the whilst regarding shedding blocks and playing chase
— Well-utilized on stunts and twists, having the motor to work around the block and get into the backfield
— Has notable power as a rusher, having the strength to walk back OL
— Possesses a fair about on power in his punch to displace blockers
— Has the upper body strength to set the edge and shed blocks to make tackles
— Uses his power rush effectively to collapse the pocket
— Will counter across OL’s face when he gets them to overset with his speed-to-power rush
— Can play on his feet and drop into zone coverage on occasion
— Notable special teams contributor when it comes to blocking punts and kicks
— Only a two-year player, suggesting he has a higher ceiling

The Bad

— More of a tweener at this stage, being a pumped-up EDGE rusher or an undersized interior defensive lineman
— Can stand to add more weight on his frame if he chooses to play inside
— Needs to get physically stronger as he will get driven off the LOS
— Lacks refinement as a pass rusher regarding a pass rush plan and hand usage
— Has gotten most of his sacks on effort rather than with technical efficiency
— Not a player you want running with backs and TEs on a consistent basis
— Has never started a college game and has played less than 50% of the snaps at Iowa in his career
— Will be a raw player his first couple of seasons as he works to develop his game


— Redshirt Sophomore Prospect from Barrington, IL
— Born July 6, 2001 (age 21)
— First team All-Conference as a senior in high school and earned three letters in hockey
— Redshirted in 2020 after committing to Iowa
— Played in 13 games in 2021, recording 33 total tackles (17 solo), 8.5 TFLs, seven sacks, and a PBU
— Played in 13 games in 2022 and posted 37 total tackles (17 solo), 10.5 TFLs, and six sacks
— 2022 second-team All-Big Ten, 2022 Academic All-Big Ten, 2021 Academic All-Big Ten
— Tied Iowa single-game record with two blocked punts vs. Iowa State

Tape Breakdown

Lukas Van Ness in an intriguing case study for several reasons. He is only a redshirt sophomore that has great size (6’5, 270lb) and length, having played up-and-down the Iowa Hawkeyes defensive front. He has 13 sacks in two seasons and appears to only be scratching the surface when it comes to his abilities as a football player. However, he has never started a game for the Hawkeyes who have traditionally played their seniors over their underclassmen, having notched right around 50% of the defensive snaps the last two seasons.

When you plug in the tape on Van Ness, you see a physically gifted power rusher. He has the length to get into OL’s chest immediately off the snap, converting speed to power exceptionally well against some of the best in the country. Watch this two-play sequence of Van Ness bulldozing Peter Skoronski and Paris Johnson Jr.: potentially the top two OTs in this draft class.

His strength shows up not only as a pass rusher, but also as a run defender. Watch Van Ness in this clips stack and shed blockers after the snap, throwing the guard aside against Iowa State to make a TFL in the backfield on second-and-short.

Because Van Ness brings the threat of winning with speed to power on the outside, offensive tackles will often overset him, giving Van Ness an inside counter across to the blocker’s face. We see that happen on these two clips where Van Ness attacks the outside shoulder of the tackle, but then counters back inside as the tackle exposes his inside gap, crossing the blocker’s face into the lap of the QB.

Van Ness has a motor that is always running hot when it comes to pursuing the ball. In this first clip, Van Ness starts to counter back inside after turning #79 Dawand Jones around on his initial punch. However, Van ness trips on another lineman, but he manages to get up and quickly track down #7 C.J. Stroud for the sack. In the second clip, Van Ness crosses face of Paris Johnson Jr. as the running back takes the short pitch, tracking him down in the open field before leveling him right in front of the first down marker.

Lukas Van Ness has spent time playing both interior defensive line as well as out on the edge, but he has shown a capability of dropping into coverage. He is a good athlete that has experience playing on his feet as you can see in this clip against the Buckeyes, dropping into the middle of the field before locating the pass and quickly rallying to the football to bring down the receiver.

Van Ness has also made quite the name for himself as a special teams contributor, being a viable weapon to block kicks and punts thanks to his height and long wingspan. In fact, Van Ness blocked two punts in the same game this past season against in-state rival Iowa State.

However, while the physical tools are tantalizing, Van Ness still has a long way to go to become the player he is capable of being. He lacks a pass rush plan, often running full speed with a bull rush instead of winning with hand usage and technique. Plenty of his sacks were in the “clean up” or effort variety rather than being high-quality QB takedowns. Also, Van Ness is a bit of a tweener, lacking the size to be a base 3-4 DE but is super-sized as a standing OLB. Should he want to be able to kick inside, he must improve his leverage and functional strength to prevent him from getting blown off the ball like we see on this rep in the running game.


Overall, Lukas Van Ness is a young, athletic defender that has his best football yet in front of him. He may not have ever started a game at Iowa, but that isn’t for a lack of sheer talent. Van Ness’ size, explosiveness and strength make him quite the power rusher, being capable of giving OL fits as a pass rusher off the edge or when kicking inside. Still, He needs to get functionally stronger to hold up against the run as he will get driven off the ball. Van Ness also needs to improve is nuances of the game when it comes to hand usage and ability to get off blocks routinely to become a capable three-down starter in the league.

When watching Van Ness, Payton Turner of the New Orleans Saints comes to mind as a similar pro comparison. Turner was drafted out of Houston last season as a surprise first-round pick, also possessing great size and length (6’5 1/2”, 270lb, 35” arms) as a pumped-up edge rusher that also played inside for the Cougars. Turner also was an effective power rusher that had big man athleticism given his size, but also was extremely raw in terms of his technique and hand usage as a pass rusher.

I foresee a similar path for Van Ness who has already been a fast riser in the pre-draft process and should only gain more steam once he tests well at the Combine. For the Steelers, Van Ness would most likely project as a 3-4 OLB that would back up Alex Highsmith and T.J. Watt. He could come in and bulk up to play DE, but it remains to be seen whether Pittsburgh would want to take more of a project at that position rather than someone who has the frame that can contribute now. Either way, Van Ness is a physically gifted defender that needs to be developed, but has the frame and traits to become a disruptive force in the league.

Projection: Mid-Day One/Early Day Two
Depot Draft Grade: 8.4 – Future Quality Stater (2nd Round)
Games Watched: at Ohio State (2022), vs Iowa State (2022), at Rutgers (2022), vs Nevada (2022)


Previous 2023 NFL Draft Player Profiles
OL O’Cyrus Torrence LB Jack Campbell WR Zay Flowers WR Parker Washington
DL Bryan Breese DT Jalen Carter OT Darnell Wright CB Joey Porter Jr.
WR Jordan Addison DL Siaki Ika DL Keeanu Benton CB Kelee Ringo
CB Cam Smith OT Dawand Jones LB Noah Sewell iOL Ulu Oluwatimi
LB Drew Sanders iOL Jarrett Patterson OG Nick Broeker OT Broderick Jones
WR Tank Dell iOL John Michael Schmitz CB Devon Witherspoon OT Paris Johnson Jr
LB Trenton Simpson CB Christian Gonzalez LB Henry To’oTo’o WR Jayden Reed
S Brian Branch DL DJ Dale EDGE Isaiah McGuire S JL Skinner
S Jordan Battle LB Isaiah Foskey LB Ivan Pace QB Anthony Richardson
EDGE Will McDonald OG Andrew Vorhees TE Michael Mayer WR Jalin Hyatt
C Ricky Stromberg CB Terell Smith CB Kyu Blu Kelly LB Dorian Williams
DL Jerrod Clark WR Ronnie Bell CB Emmanuel Forbes LB DeMarvion Overshown
OL Peter Skoronski OL Chandler Zavala WR Rashee Rice DT Gervon Dexter Sr.
CB Anthony Johnson OL Steve Avila LB Daiyan Henley DB Sydney Brown
DE Keion White CB Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson CB Julius Brents
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