Year: Redshirt Sophomore
The Good: Lukas Van Ness is nicknamed “Hercules” for good reason; he has tremendous size, length, and power. Van Ness’ brute strength is among the tops in this class across all position groups, so naturally his charged-up bull rush is pretty insane. He’s twitchy for his size, which provides Van Ness with immediate flexibility to beat OGs along the interior, and he has a decent set of skills on the EDGE for a defensive end with relatively minimal experience playing there.
The Bad: With a bull rush as commonly dominant as Van Ness’, he is naturally dependent on it and that can make preparation easy for OTs across from him – especially the good ones. Van Ness also isn’t particularly explosive or bendy, so there isn’t much fear of him turning the corner and winning reps that way. Van Ness is also a pretty brutal run defender at this early stage of his football journey. He really struggles to maintain his gaps, gets stuck on blockers, and doesn’t stand his ground well enough for his size. He won’t be playable on early downs in the NFL as a rookie.
The Bottom Line: Van Ness is a weird evaluation because he’s so damn young and the amount of quality game tape available of him is just far less than most other prospects. Van Ness definitely could have used more seasoning in college, but I don’t fault him for getting the hell out of Iowa after they played him mostly at DT as a redshirt freshman then didn’t even start him as a sophomore. I will say though, as outdated as Kirk Ferentz’ program is, it’s understandable why Van Ness would hit the bench for extended periods at times. His most shining reps also did come from the interior, even if he’s more consistent with a more promising future at EDGE. Van Ness is a great talent, even if he’s not as special as some are making him out to be; don’t ignore his lackluster performances in the jumping drills. Whatever team drafts him better have a ton of patience and enough security to roll the dice.
Grade: Late First Round / Early Second Round
Pro Comp: Solomon Thomas – Carlos Dunlap
I’m cheating a bit with a range for Van Ness’ comparison, partly because he just hasn’t played that much ball yet and partly because I don’t feel great about one specific comp for him. Entering the league, I project Van Ness as a DE/DT tweener who struggles against the run with a power-driven pass rush plan that doesn’t work as effectively in the pros – which sounds like the career of Solomon Thomas. But if Van Ness does develop into a stronger and more well-rounded player, I could see him becoming a long, pocket-collapsing DE along the lines of Carlos Dunlap.
- Kentucky 2021
- Iowa State 2022
- Michigan 2022
- Ohio State 2022