Lukas Van Ness declares for the 2023 NFL draft


Iowa DE Lukas Van Ness decided to put an end to all the rumors and speculation, affirming that he’s decided to forgo his eligibility to become pro and officially declare for the upcoming NFL Draft:

“My time at Iowa was very special, and I will always be a Hawkeye,” Van Ness wrote in his statement. “It was not an easy decision to leave the University of Iowa with remaining eligibility. It has been a lifelong dream of mine to play in the NFL.”

Despite never being a started and making just 26 appearances, Van Ness showed glimpses of untapped potential and the ability to become a lowkey impactful contributor at the NFL level right out of the gate, with multiple teams reportedly looking forward to acquiring his services.

Of course he is not one of the best Iowa NFL players of all time, like the ones you can read in this article. Still, following his breakout season vs. Kent State (2.5 tackles for a loss and two sacks) during his redshirt freshman game, people started talking about whether Van Ness was NFL material. Notably, that wasn’t enough for him to get the nod for the Hawkeyes. 

Then, when he logged eight tackles, 2.5 tackles for a loss, and 1.5 sacks vs. Nevada, it became all the more evident that he had more than enough skills to at least be considered an NFL prospect.

Van Ness Arriving In Houston?

So, now that he’s officially declared for the upcoming NFL Draft, ESPN’s Draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. believes he would be a seamless fit for the Houston Texans in the mid-first round after they get Bryce Young — or any other QB — with their second-overall pick:

“Van Ness is a versatile and productive defender who made an impact at end and tackle for the Hawkeyes, even as he never actually started a game. He had 13.5 sacks over the past two seasons, 9.5 from the interior and four from the edge. NFL teams covet that sort of positional flexibility. He would get lots of early snaps for Houston,” Kiper wrote.

Strengths And Weaknesses

Well, there’s not much you can say about a guy nicknamed ‘Hercules’ that isn’t self-explanatory. We’re talking about one of the strongest physical units in the nation, a privileged athlete that’s way faster than one would guess from the eye test.

He’s elite at the point of attack, and his lateral quickness makes him an enticing prospect as a power Edge rusher at the professional level. He’s an elite headhunter with a great nose for the rival quarterback, and that raw power and strength give him an NFL-ready body and a skill set that would easily translate to the pros.

He’s got an impressive wingspan for a guy in his position, and his athleticism allows him to turn the corner and find gaps where most DEs would struggle. He can leverage pass-blockers with his ballerina-like footwork, and he’s got enough size, strength, speed, and athleticism to line up both in the interior and the exterior in most formations.

Nonetheless, one cannot ignore the fact that Van Ness barely played during his time with the Hawkeyes. He failed to play 50% of the snaps despite lining up on multiple spots of the line, so there are questions about his ability to adjust to more complicated NFL schemes and make adjustments on the go. He’s quite raw in that regard.

Still, it’s not that often that a physical unit like him becomes available, and that kind of raw strength and determination to break tackles could make him a legit DPOY candidate if he lands in the right situation and gets some time to develop and play through his mistakes.