What to know about Lukas Van Ness, pass rusher from Iowa and the Green Bay Packers' first pick in the 2023 NFL draft

Tom Dombeck
Manitowoc Herald Times Reporter
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GREEN BAY − The Green Bay Packers received the No. 13 overall selection in the 2023 NFL draft from the New York Jets as part of the package in exchange for quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

With that selection, the Packers picked Iowa edge rusher Lukas Van Ness to provide more ammunition to a pass rush that was limited in depth behind injured Rashan Gary and Preston Smith.

Iowa edge rusher Lukas Van Ness was selected by the Green Bay Packers at No. 13 overall in the 2023 NFL draft on Thursday.

Packers go back to the Big Ten for pass rusher like Rashan Gary

PackersNews.com analysis: The Packers found themselves drafting in the top 15 for the first time since 2019, and went back to the future a bit by drafting an edge rusher from the Big Ten. Gary proved to be a gem after a slow start to his career, so Green Bay hopes Van Ness can provide a similar boost to the defense.

Height, weight, other measurables

Height: 6-foot-5

Weight: 272 pounds

Hand size: 11 inches

Arm length: 34 inches

Lukas Van Ness' Iowa highlights

  • 11 tackles for loss in 2022
  • 6.5 sacks
  • Tied sixth in the nation with two blocked kicks
  • Second-team All-Big Ten
  • Nicknamed "Hercules"

Lukas Van Ness' thoughts on the Packers

On being drafted: "I'm at a loss for words ... since I decided to come out around four months ago, I put my nose to the grindstone ... just to get to this day. I couldn't ask for a better result. I'm so happy to be a Packer and I can't wait to get out there and wear that green." 

How they see him as a defender: "A lot of our meeting at the combine was directly related to myself, who I am as a man ... we didn't really talk about much schematically and where they see me fit. To be honest, I didn't have too much conversation with the Packers outside of the combine ... so that's a question for me as well." 

On working out in the offseason with Kenny Clark: "I got a little involved in the culture and how things work in the building ... From the get-go, my goal was to come in and learn from the veterans."

Who is Lukas Van Ness' family?

Van Ness, who's from the Chicago suburb of Barrington, Ill., had a draft party at his family's second home, in Fontana, Wis. It's near Lake Geneva, a popular vacation destination, especially for Chicago-area people looking to escape the city. He's dating Frankie Kmet, the sister of Chicago Bears tight end Cole Kmet, who also played at Iowa.

Green Bay Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst's thoughts on Lukas Van Ness

On Van Ness as a player: "Edge rusher from Iowa. … big man, powerful, fast, explosive, really big upside and we’re excited to get him."

On what jumps out to him: "Versatility is one, because when you’re a little lighter outside, you can’t go inside, it’s tougher to go inside. Certainly setting edges on first and second down is very very important to us in the run defense. I think it’s just kinda how we want to be built. His versatility jumps out but also the explosive nature in which he can rush the passer."

On Van Ness never starting while at Iowa: "It’s unusual, but he played close to 1,000 snaps the last two years … Iowa culture, the way they do things a little bit."

What position will Lukas Van Ness play for the Packers?

Van Ness, who was a defensive lineman at Iowa, is projected to play outside linebacker in the NFL. The first-round pick says the Packers haven't clarified what position he will play for the team.

NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein’s take on Lukas Van Ness

"Nicknamed 'Hercules' by teammates, Van Ness is a well-developed defensive end with excellent lean mass and additional growth still to come. He’s a power-centric prospect with force as his modus operandi as both a run defender and pass rusher. Van Ness needs to work on hand attacks for quicker block shedding and to diversify his rush beyond bull-rush challenges. He’s taken snaps inside at Iowa but might need to keep filling out his frame before he’s ready to succeed as a run stuffer and pass rusher as a 4i in a 3-4 front. Van Ness is more of a splash player than consistent force on tape, but he possesses projectable traits that should allow for continued ascension as a pro."

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