Lukas Van Ness, DE, Iowa
This pick would be a surprise and perhaps not be a popular one in Minny if this came to pass on draft night, so allow me to get into my thought process before I talk about the prospect himself. After a quick glance at their depth chart, you could make the argument that the Vikings’ deepest position in 2023 is their outside linebacker/edge group. They have strong veteran starters in Marcus Davenport, Za’Darius Smith and Danielle Hunter to go along with a pair of talented young depth rushers in DJ Wonnum and Patrick Jones II. However, once you dig a little deeper, you’ll see that three of the five players above (Hunter, Davenport, and Wonnum) are on expiring contracts and Za’Darius Smith may have one foot out the door as well. Thus, there is a very real possibility that one or both starting OLB spots will be up for grabs next season. With the top four corners already off of the board, I’d rather grab a top 15 talent to future proof an important position than reach for CB5 to fill a roster hole.
Lukas Van Ness is a DE prospect in the 2023 draft class. He scored a 9.35 RAS out of a possible 10.00. This ranked 99 out of 1517 DE from 1987 to 2023. https://t.co/2Ce8TpVqTc #RAS pic.twitter.com/etekvrunRy— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) March 15, 2023
LVN’s athletic abilities are well noted and a large part of why he’s a projected top 15 pick. He looks like an edge rusher built in a lab, combining great size with remarkable quickness and extraordinary power. Not shown here is that he did have a strangely poor showing on the bench press at the combine (17 reps), but his tape suggests he has plenty enough strength to play in the NFL, so I’m not going to read too much into it. At his size he will fit like a glove in Minnesota’s OLB room (all 5 players listed previously are north of 6-4 260lbs.).
The main strength for a guy nicknamed “Hercules” in college is, unsurprisingly, his strength. More specifically, Lukas Van Ness might have the best bull rush of anyone in this class. He spent a large part of his college career treating Big 10 offensive linemen like blocking sleds. While rushing the edge, he also likes to employ the use of a one-armed stab technique to keep tackles hands off him as speeds around the edge. These tools, combined with a relentless motor, helped him generate a (17.8%) pressure rate last year. That was good for 2nd among qualifying Power 5 rushers. On top of that, he’s also a plus run defender, very capable of setting the edge with power or penetrating and wrapping up ball carriers with his long arms.
For all his physical abilities as a player, LVN is held back from being a top 10 prospect by his technical limitations. He’s still very raw as a pass rusher and doesn’t really employ moves other than the aforementioned bull rush and long arm stab. He will need to add more to his arsenal to maximize his success in the NFL. He likely won’t be able to physically dominate his competition as often at the next level due to tackles being stronger and more capable at anchoring.
‘But he never started at Iowa’
If you’ve talked to someone/read about Lukas Van Ness as a prospect, you’ve likely heard this said. While its true LVN had a lighter snap count than some of the premier, older prospects at his position, it is disingenuous to suggest it’s because Iowa didn’t like him or that he wasn’t a good enough player. If you check the snap numbers, you will see that LVN played 55% of the time last year moving between Edge and DT. This was more than any other “backup” along Iowa’s D-Line, and almost as much as a few of the “starters.” This is born from The Hawkeye’s strange culture/tradition of prioritizing starts for players who have seniority in their program over talented underclassmen or transfers. The Hawkeyes’ second-ranked defense featured three such players along their D-Line, some of whom LVN out produced.
TL;DR — Iowa’s weird and LVN would have started on just about any other defense in the country last year.
Lukas Van Ness is an uber talented, but raw, prospect for whom the sky’s the limit because of his athleticism and relative lack of polish as a rusher. Even at his floor, LVN’s sheer overwhelming power and plus run defense should make him a productive player who will stay in the league a long time as a rotational rusher.The idea of grabbing a player with potential like his and redshirting him with a man who has coached up guys like: Dee Ford, Chris Jones, Za’Darius Smith, and Preston Smith, is extremely enticing. That is an opportunity I cannot pass up, even if he will likely be surplus goods in his first season in Minnesota.
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2023 BGN Mock Draft Order
1) Panthers (pheebthegoose): QB Bryce Young
2) Texans (Phoenix X Minimus): QB C.J. Stroud
3) Cardinals (alwaysaphillyfan): EDGE Will Anderson
4) Colts (eaglenomics): QB Anthony Richardson
5) Seahawks (The Player Formerly Known as Mousecop): DT Jalen Carter
6) Lions (Sam2TheMaximum): DE Tyree Wilson
7) Raiders (joey2arms): OT Paris Johnson Jr.
8) Falcons (Kephas): CB Christian Gonzalez
9) Bears (chewy wellington): OT Peter Skoronski
10) Eagles (Philly21): CB Devon Witherspoon
11) Titans (RachAttack): WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba
12) Texans (Domonate): WR Quentin Johnston
13) Jets (JawnJam): OT Broderick Jones
14) Patriots (Amish Eagle Lion): CB Joey Porter Jr.
15) Packers (bdawk4ever): QB Will Levis
16) Commanders (the dog did it): OT Darnell Wright
17) Steelers (Dr.MidnightGreen): CB Deonte Banks
18) Lions (DreadPirateRocco): DT Adetomiwa Adebawore
19) Buccaneers (Neil Dutton): DT Calijah Kancey
20) Seahawks (wardbell92): DE Myles Murphy
21) Chargers (Brendanekstrom): TE Dalton Kincaid
22) Ravens (Rollinpin): RB Bijan Robinson
23) Vikings (FierceDisc65): DE Lukas Van Ness
24) Jaguars (Leo Bedio)
25) Giants (dkays)
26) Cowboys (roberticus01)
27) Bills (EHyungNim)
28) Bengals (mainmanham)
29) Saints (RiverCityEagle)
30) Eagles (ablesser88)
31) Chiefs (Hoosinole)
Now it’s time for you to vote for who YOU think should be selected in the 2023 BGN Community Consensus Mock Draft.
Who should the Vikings select at No. 23?
This poll is closed
QB Hendon Hooker
CB Kelee Ringo
CB Cam Smith
CB Emmanuel Forbes
DB Brian Branch
DT Bryan Bresee
WR Jordan Addison
WR Zay Flowers
WR Jalin Hyatt
1) Panthers: QB C.J. Stroud
2) Texans: QB Bryce Young
3) Cardinals: EDGE Will Anderson
4) Colts: QB Anthony Richardson
5) Seahawks: DT Jalen Carter
6) Lions: DE Tyree Wilson
7) Raiders: OT Paris Johnson Jr.
8) Falcons: CB Christian Gonzalez
9) Bears: OT Peter Skoronski
10) Eagles: CB Devon Witherspoon
11) Titans: WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba
12) Texans: DE Myles Murphy
13) Jets: OT Broderick Jones
14) Patriots: CB Joey Porter Jr.
15) Packers: DE Nolan Smith
16) Commanders: OT Darnell Wright
17) Steelers: CB Deonte Banks
18) Lions: DT Calijah Kancey
19) Buccaneers: QB Will Levis
20) Seahawks: DE Lukas Van Ness
21) Chargers: RB Bijan Robinson
22) Ravens: WR Quentin Johnston