In the wake of the Packers’ 2023 NFL draft haul, insiders and analysts were generally impressed. Green Bay did not address its need for playmakers early on, but did so later, and the guy they picked at No 13—Iowa defensive edge rusher Lukas Van Ness—was viewed as a plug-and-play type.
NFL.com’s Chad Reuter wrote of Van Ness, “I love the potential in Van Ness as a strong edge defender who can play 5 technique.” And Pro Football Focus noted of Van Ness, “A power rusher, he can push through opposing offensive linemen and likely comes with the versatility of being able to kick inside at times.”
That does bring the Packers to eight first-round picks on the defensive side of the ball, and it does amp up some pressure on Van Ness to show they got it right.
So far, so good. According to the preseason grades given out by PFF, Van Ness has shown out nicely thus far. Logging 49 snaps, according to the site, Van Ness received a grade of 67.6. That is tied for 13th among all 2023 first-rounders, many of whom did not play a significant number of downs. Van Ness played 49, and was tied for the fifth-best rating among players who played that much.
Van Ness Improved During Camp
Here is what PFF had to say in summary of Van Ness’ preseason:
Van Ness played 49 snaps across Green Bay’s three preseason games. His final game of the season was his best as a pass rusher, earning an 83.3 grade with a 20.0% pass-rush win percentage on five pass-rush snaps.
Van Ness spent the first part of the preseason just getting accustomed to the NFL and, specifically, to the Packers, where he will be called upon to be more versatile. It’s little wonder he was better in the final game than in the two previous games—a trend that should continue as the season moves along.
“Just been transitioning,” Van Ness said last week, per Packers Wire. “Coming from Iowa where I have my hand in the ground and getting used to that two-point stance.
“Just vision, and learning what’s coming,” added Van Ness. “Having recognition. There’s different times you can get in that three point, but it’s just it different for me, getting comfortable, but more than anything, having vision, having an understanding of what you’re getting.”
Van Ness Listed With Second Team
It is unclear what Van Ness’ role will be as the season presses forward. He is listed as an outside linebacker with the second-team defense on the team’s depth chart, putting him behind Rashan Gary and Preston Smith.
He admits to having some nerves, but knows he can help the Packers’ cause.
“It’s alright to feel some nerves and want to go out there to make some plays,” he said. “But more than anything, just go out there with the mentality you want to affect the game any way possible, and if we do that, those plays will come to you. I’m not worried or overwhelmed by any means to go out and make plays. I just know if I keep my routine, go out there, and work hard, it will come.”
As for the rest of the 2023 class, Eagles defensive lineman Jalen Carter, chosen with the No. 9 pick out of Georgia, ranked at the top, with 91.4 grade. He played only nine snaps, however. Texans edge rusher Will Anderson was the only other first-rounder to crack a 90 on PFF’s grades. He played only 25 snaps.
Among players who got significant reps, Jack Campbell of the Lions had the best grade, a 76.9 on 71 snaps.
PFF noted: “Campbell played 71 total snaps this preseason, with his strongest facet being run defense — where he earned a 71.6 grade. He also recorded a 71.0 coverage grade through three games, allowing just one catch for seven yards.”