The Green Bay Packers made a big splash with the 13th overall pick by taking Iowa pass rusher Lukas Van Ness, but the first-round pick has some pretty strong connections to the team’s most hated rival.
Van Ness is a 6’5″, 272-pound pass rusher who showed flashes of dominance for the Hawkeyes as a redshirt sophomore. racking up 6 sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss last season. The EDGE prospect turned heads at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis with a forty-yard dash time of 4.58 seconds and a three-cone time of 7.02 seconds.
While the Packers felt confident in taking Van Ness in the first round, the young prospect has several ties to the Chicago Bears. Along with growing up in the suburbs of Chicago in Barrington, Illinois, Packers reporter Bill Michaels tweeted that Van Ness is dating the sister of Bears tight end Cole Kmet.
If the two are still together by the time the 2023 season rolls around, there could be some interesting on-field moments when Van Ness lines up across from Kmet in a storied rivalry game.
Why Lukas Van Ness Makes Sense for Green Bay
The Packers may have passed on a wide receiver in Jaxon Smith-Njigba, but Van Ness is a great fit for what Green Bay needs defensively.
Heading into the 2023 season, the Packers will likely be without Rashan Gary for at least a few games after he suffered a torn ACL in November of last year. While the former first-round pick rehabs from his injury, it will allow Van Ness to get some legitimate playing time early that will be crucial to his long-term development.
The Packers also needed a long-term successor to Preston Smith, who is 30 years old and could be a cap casualty in future years as the team reshapes its roster in the post-Aaron Rodgers era. Like Smith, Van Ness has the play strength and length to set the edge and hold his own against the run, making him an ideal long-term replacement.
For the time being, the Packers will have five legitimate outside linebackers once Gary is healthy with the three previously mentioned along with Kingsley Enagbare and Justin Hollins, who has come back on a one-year deal. With that kind of depth on the edge, the Packers will be able to keep rolling out fresh pass rushers throughout the season.
Day 2 Draft Targets for Packers
With a pass rusher taken in the first round, the Packers could look to the other side of the ball in Day 2 of the 2023 NFL Draft to get Jordan Love some help.
Following the first round, Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst told reporters that he thinks there is plenty of value in the second and third rounds for the team to go after pass catchers, hinting a bit at the team’s Day 2 strategy.
That could mean a tight end for Green Bay, especially with Notre Dame’s Michael Mayer and Georgia’s Darnell Washington on the board. At the same time, the Packers could also take a swing on a big-bodied wide receiver like Jonathan Mingo out of Ole Miss, or another speed threat like Tennessee’s Jalin Hyatt.
Regardless of the direction they go in, Day 2 of the draft will give Packers fans a much more complete look at Gutekunst’s draft strategy in 2023.