GREEN BAY, Wis. – In 2022, the Green Bay Packers got the receiver they wanted by making a trade with an NFC North rival.
Could they do the same in 2023?
In Dane Brugler’s second mock draft of the season for The Athletic, the Packers swung a trade with the Detroit Lions, moved back from No. 15 to No. 18, and selected Iowa defender Lukas Van Ness. A defensive lineman for the Hawkeyes, he fits the mold of the big outside linebacker that the Packers have preferred with the likes of Za’Darius Smith, Preston Smith and Rashan Gary.
The Packers have a need, with the lack of depth at the position standing out like a sore thumb after Gary suffered a torn ACL. There is no guarantee the star pass rusher will be ready for Week 1.
“This feels like a very Packers pick, right?” Brugler wrote. “Lukas Van Ness was not even a starter for the Hawkeyes and might not have the most impressive collegiate resume. With his explosive power and upside, though, the Iowa product has the toolsy profile that Green Bay covets on the defensive line.”
Actually, the numbers are pretty impressive. In two seasons, he recorded 13 sacks and 19 tackles for losses. He was second-team all-Big Ten as a redshirt sophomore this past season.
Listed at 6-foot-5 and 275 pounds by the Hawkeyes, he’s ranked among the 10 most underrated players in the draft class by Pro Football Focus.
“This is an incredibly deep edge rusher class with so many different styles and body shapes,” wrote PFF’s Marcus Mosher. “Nonetheless, one of our favorites is Van Ness, who is among the best power rushers in the class, as he posted an 18.8% pass-rush win rate this season. He's faced some pretty good competition over the last few years, including Northwestern's Peter Skorkonski and Ohio State's Paris Johnson.”
With an impressive physique, he goes by the nickname “Hercules.”
“I think it’s a great nickname,” Van Ness told The Athletic. “I even remember watching some of those mythical movies when I was younger. It just gives me a laugh to sometimes be compared to someone like Hercules.”
He played defensive tackle in 2021 before moving out to the edge in 2022. Before football, he grew up playing hockey. His first year of tackle football was eighth grade. Despite his athletic gifts, he wasn’t even considered among the top 1,000 recruits by 247 Sports.
“He definitely has a physique,” defensive line coach Kelvin Bell said. “Hats off to his mom and dad. That kid hit the genetic lottery.”
100 Days of Mocks
Starting Jan. 17, when there were 100 days until the start of the NFL Draft, we started our mock-worthy goal of 100 mock drafts in 100 days. Here’s the series.