Defensive line might not be a top priority for the New England Patriots in the 2023 NFL Draft. But perhaps Lukas Van Ness will change that opinion.
At 6-foot-5, 275 pounds, Van Ness is a relentless edge defender who racked up 13 sacks and 19 tackles for loss over his last two seasons at Iowa. Van Ness confirmed to reporters at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis on Wednesday that he plans to meet with the Patriots on Thursday, and he sounded pretty excited about the possibility of playing for Bill Belichick if New England were to draft him.
"That would be an amazing opportunity," Van Ness said, via NESN's Dakota Randall. "If Coach Belichick took the opportunity on me, I'd be looking forward to a fun career."
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Van Ness is projected as a first-round pick, so he'll likely meet with a host of teams in Indy and say complementary things about all of them. But the versatile defensive end does seem like the type of player who would fit in Foxboro.
Van Ness played both defensive tackle and defensive end for the Hawkeyes, transitioning to the outside prior to the 2022 season. He excelled as a run defender and a pass defender and also made his mark on special teams, where he blocked three punts -- including two in the same game.
Belichick values versatility and special teams contributions -- and he's also close with Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz, whose son, James Ferentz, is an offensive lineman for the Patriots.
In fact, NFL Media's lead draft analyst, Daniel Jeremiah, recently spotlighted Van Ness as one of five "Patriots-type players" in this year's draft class.
"Obviously, you have the connection there with Kirk Ferentz and Belichick so he's always gonna be comfortable with Iowa players and he's a big, physical defensive lineman who can move inside, outside," Jeremiah said of Van Ness.
The question is whether New England would use its No. 14 pick on an edge defender with Matt Judon, Deatrich Wise Jr. and Josh Uche all in the fold. While most mock drafts have Van Ness going in the late first round, our Phil Perry pegged Van Ness as the No. 9 overall pick in his latest mock draft, predicting that the Iowa star will put up impressive numbers at the combine.
You could argue the Patriots have more pressing needs at offensive tackle, wide receiver or cornerback. But don't be surprised if they take a long look at Van Ness, especially if Thursday's meeting goes well.