IOWA CITY, IOWA- SEPTEMBER 25: Defensive lineman Lukas Van Ness #91 of the Iowa Hawkeyes celebrates a sack during the second half over quarterback Todd Centeio #7 of the Colorado State Rams at Kinnick Stadium on September 25, 2021 in Iowa City, Iowa.

Will Lukas Van Ness hear his name called by the Eagles on draft night? The edge rusher from Iowa is certainly a name to keep an eye on.  

We know the Eagles love drafting linemen. Whether it comes on offense or defense. Last year they took DT Jordan Davis out of Georgia in the first and then Center Cam Jurgens from Nebraska in the second round. In the prior draft, they may have taken Devonta Smith in the first round, but in the next two rounds, they took Landon Dickerson and Milton Williams. And in 2019 their first-round pick was Andre Dillard. Overall, they have taken either an offensive or defensive lineman in one of the first two rounds of 10 of the last 13 drafts. 

They are pretty set in terms of starters on the offensive line. That certainly does not preclude them from taking an offensive lineman. In fact, neither Dickerson, Jurgens, nor Dillard were picks that filled immediate needs. Two of them barely played their rookie season, and Dickerson only did because of an injury. But a defensive lineman could certainly be defined as a more immediate need. They lost Javon Hargrave to free agency. And while they brought both Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham back, both are on one-year deals and are getting older. 

So could Lukas Van Ness from Iowa be the answer for the Eagles at DL? We already looked at other options along the defensive line. Namely Jalen Carter, Myles Murphy, and Bryan Bresee. But none of them were quite as productive as Van Ness in College. And none have as cool of a nickname as he does either? Does all of that mean he is a better pick than they would be though? 

Here are 5 things you should know about Lukas Van Ness.  

  • Called "Hercules" For a Reason

    Lukas Van Ness earned the nickname from his teammates. It was not originally because of his on-field production though. Originally it was his teammates mocking him because like Ezekiel Elliott, he was a fan of cropping his jersey up to show his abs. Thus his Iowa teammates took to calling him Hercules. He certainly looks the part. Van Ness is 6ft5 and 272 pounds of mostly muscle.  

    “He definitely has a physique. Hats off to his mom and dad. That kid hit the genetic lottery.”- Iowa D-Line Coach Kelvin Bell 

    [Source: The Athletic]

    And the physique is not just for show. The word most often used to describe Van Ness is explosive. Not only is he quick for someone his size, but what really stands out is the power he plays with. Van Ness has left more than one Offensive Tackle on his ass by running right over them. When you watch him play, there is no denying his explosiveness. Iowa used him all over the line in his career there. When bumped inside, he often proved too quick for offensive guards. And on the outside, it is rare to see someone with a Bull Rush as effective as him.  

  • Productive Despite Limited Snaps

    Much like the Eagles last year, Iowa had a very deep defensive line rotation. There were 9 different guys getting snaps. To the point that Lukas Van Ness didn’t even start games. He played just 478 snaps in 2022 across 13 games. 36.8 per game.  A lot less than other edge rushers in this draft. For reference, Myles Murphy played 45.1 snaps per game.  

    And yet, Lukas Van Ness was probably the most productive of all the top pass rushers in this class, besides Will Anderson. He had 8 sacks this past season in 271 pass rush snaps. A sack every 33.9 snaps. Jalen Carter got a sack every 91 snaps, Nolan Smith every 51 snaps, and Myle Murphy every 35.6 snaps. Plus, Van Ness had 46 total QB pressures. Meaning he pressured the QB on 17% of his chances. And he was able to do that both off the edge, and from the interior of the line. 

    It doesn’t hurt that he also graded out pretty well as a run-stopper. 

  • Too Reliant on the Bull Rush

    One of the main critiques thrown Van Ness’s way is that he relies way too much on his Bull Rush. And with how effective it is, you can see why. But he will need to add moves to his repertoire to be successful in the NFL. The good news is his athletic profile suggests he is more than capable of that. But like both Nolan Smith and Myles Murphy, he is not yet a complete player. And he will certainly need some coaching to improve his overall technique. The fact that he has one elite tool goes a long way though. 

    And like both Murphy and Smith, the fact that there is a large room for improvement could be a good thing. Because it suggests he could be even better than he already was. As we said with Murphy last week, lacking technique is a far easier flaw to deal with than being too slow, too weak, or too small. You can teach Lukas how to use his hands or quickness better than he did in college. But you can’t teach someone to be as strong or quick as him, Myles Murphy, Nolan Smith. All 3 are special players, who if coached right, could be forces in the NFL. The Eagles have a good D-Line coach in Tracy Rocker and a lot of good Defensive Linemen to learn from.

    That said, Lukas probably has more to learn than Myles Murphy does. At least according to what many of the draft experts say. There are too many plays where the Bull Rush doesn’t work that he just gets shut down. You do see him occasionally work his way back into them. But you will want to see more consistency from him at the next level. That all said, he was productive anyway, in a conference with good O-Line talent. So the floor is still pretty high with him.

  • Looked Good vs NFL Level Talent

     You obviously can’t face actual NFL talent before getting to the NFL. But you can face future NFL players. And Lukas Van Ness, playing in the Big 10, got some chances to play some pretty good Offensive Tackles. Two of which are expected to be first-round draft picks. Peter Skoronski from Northwestern, and Paris Johnson Jr from Ohio State.

    Peter Skoronoski is expected by many to be a Top 10 pick. This is what Lukas Van Ness did to him. 

    That guy is going to be starting at LT for some NFL team next year. Van Ness left him on his ass.

    He also faced Paris Johnson, and while those results weren’t as eye-popping, he competed pretty well with a guy who is going to be a first-round pick. Lukas Van Ness is number 91. In the following set of plays, you will see him get stuffed on some snaps. But on others, he beats Johnson.

    He never gets to CJ Stroud. But that is more because Ohio State’s plan for that game was clearly to take Iowa’s pass rush out of the equation by getting the ball out quickly. It worked in that they put up more points on the Iowa defense than anyone. But Van Ness individually still looked pretty good in that game. On one play you even see him shed a block to quickly make a run stop that otherwise may have gone for decent yardage.

    Van Ness can’t prove himself vs actual NFL Tackles yet. But he more than proved at Iowa he can compete with other Elite College Athletes.


  • Almost Played Hockey Instead

    In another universe, Van Ness ended up in a different league’s draft. Coming out of high school, he heavily considered a different career path. Hockey was his first passion. But his size created problems for him in hockey. Because he was so much bigger than most of the other guys on the ice, he spent a ton of time in the penalty box. many of those penalties he will tell you were not quite fair. But he decided to instead play a sport where his size would be of more use.

    He went to Iowa as just a 3-Star recruit. And he started out at DT there. But by his final year there, they slid him out to the edge more. Still, he picked up a lot from his time playing hockey.

    “Hockey requires a lot of agility. It’s a hard sport to play. It’s very physical. It’s very demanding. A lot of those attributes contribute to the football player that I am today.”- Lukas Van Ness to Reporters at the Combine

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