2023 NFL Draft

Players That Bear Watching: Iowa DL Lukas Van Ness

2023 NFL Draft

Over the course of this football season, the focus of these player profiles revolved around likely first round prospects. Owning the first overall selection in the 2023 draft, it’s possible that through trades Chicago may acquire additional high end picks.

Between now and draft day, player evaluations will be fluid as these athletes compete in all-star games, the NFL combine and their prospective pro days. A less known talent like Lukas Van Ness, who never started in college, might be the type of player available for a Bears’ organization possibly owning a bevy of picks.

This week’s profile takes a look at a player in a position of need for Chicago.

Name: Lukas Van Ness

Position: DL/DE 

School (Year): Iowa (R-So)

Measurables: 6’5”, 275 lbs / 4.81 40-Time

Career Notes: [2022] Second-Team All-Big Ten (AP, Coaches, Phil Steele); [2022] Academic All-Big Ten; [2021] Academic All-Big Ten; [2021] Freshman All-American (FWAA)

Best Game: The amazing thing about Van Ness’ career at Iowa, is that he never once started in any of the 26 games he played. Despite not starting, Van Ness performed fantastically in two games exemplifying the type of next-level-athlete he might become in the NFL. Van Ness’ breakout game happened against Kent State during his redshirt freshman campaign. In that contest, he registered seven tackles with 2.5 tackles for loss and two sacks. Arguably, his best game mirrored similar statistics from his battle with Iowa State, but this time against the Wolfpack of Nevada. Van Ness and his Iowa Hawkeyes faced Nevada on September 17, dominating the Wolfpack by shutting them out 27-0. At the end of the day, Van Ness tallied eight tackles (a personal best) with 2.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks.


RELATED: 2023 NFL Mock Draft: What should Bears do with No. 1 pick?

What he says about himself: “He’s a raw prospect, but it’s easy to get excited about his speed, length and power as a true 4-3 defensive end at the next level.” - ESPN NFL Draft Analyst Matt Miller

Skill Set: Van Ness is a chiseled, freakishly strong (nickname is Hercules) athlete with favorable length and effective quickness. More of a power edge rusher, Van Ness anchors well at the point of attack, but is able to quickly disengage and pursue either laterally, or in a downhill fashion after quarterbacks and ball carriers. His ability to snap-extend his long arms helps him gain immediate leverage against grappling offensive linemen, or even manipulate athletic blockers with nimble feet. Considering his size and framing (6’5”, 275 lbs), he’s unexpectedly flexible with pliable hips and above average flexion in his ankles. His overall elasticity allows for elite hip rotation when bending around the edge; while his ankle flexibility sustains his mass when leveraging past blockers. Van Ness uncorks his power through a channeled surge from his core that can embarrass unprepared opponents. Because of his athleticism and size, Van Ness can align on the interior or exterior of any defensive formation.

Why Chicago? Van Ness’ potential as a defensive lineman is staggering, especially since he’s never started as a collegian. Typically, a player with limited game time reps displaying more athleticism than production is regarded as “red flag” material. However, Van Ness, in limited game exposure (920 snaps in college) showcased high yield productivity for the Hawkeyes. As a freshman, he tied the Iowa single game record with two blocked punts versus rival Iowa State. As a non-starter in his 26 games played, Van Ness tallied 70 total tackles, 19 tackles for loss, 13 sacks and two blocked punts. During his freshman year he primarily aligned as a defensive tackle; then shifted to the defensive edge as a sophomore with equal effectiveness. Extremely powerful, he knocked first round offensive line prospect Peter Skoronski (Northwestern) flat on his derriere with a bull rush burst from the edge. Van Ness is a disciplined run defender who plays with balance and good pad level when assessing a team’s ground game. Much like former Bears’ great Trace Armstrong, Van Ness is a versatile defensive lineman who’s inside/outside adaptability makes him a high value target in today’s wide open, pass-happy NFL.

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