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Packers select Iowa pass-rusher Lukas Van Ness with 13th overall pick

Green Bay added a versatile defender who can inside and on the edge at the next level

Colorado State v Iowa Photo by Matthew Holst/Getty Images

When Green Bay Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst swapped first-round picks with the New York Jets in the Aaron Rodgers trade, he claimed that he did it “because I thought it was important.” Questions began to spring up about if the move was a leverage play for a potential trade up or trade back from the 13th overall pick or if the team was actually going to make a selection in that slot.

Those questions were answered on Thursday night when the Packers turned in the pick for Iowa pass-rusher Lukas Van Ness, who was one of the players to privately visit with the New England Patriots — the team that Green Bay jumped in the pick swap from 15 to 13.

Van Ness was the third pass-rusher off of the board in the 2023 NFL Draft, behind third overall pick Will Anderson (Houston Texans) and seventh overall pick Tyree Wilson (Las Vegas Raiders.) Van Ness is known for his versatile background, playing both on the edge and inside for the Hawkeyes during his short college career. Despite not officially being a starter for Iowa, Van Ness — who declared as a redshirt sophomore — frequently played 40-plus snaps a game as a designated pass-rush specialist for the team.

In Green Bay’s 3-4 scheme, Van Ness is expected to play 3-4 outside linebacker — where 2022 starters Rashan Gary and Preston Smith return. Gary, who is set to play on his fifth-year option, is coming off of an ACL tear, though, and Smith is likely a cap casualty in upcoming seasons with how his contract structure is set up. In a three-man rotation, Van Ness will likely be used in the same role as Za’Darius Smith, who played as an edge defender on base downs and as an interior rusher in obvious passing situations during his three-year stint with the Packers.

Relative Athletic Score (RAS) gives players a 0 to 10 grade as overall athletes and in individual drills based on averages at their positions. Van Ness scored as a 9.4 as a defensive end, putting up an impressive 4.58-second 40-yard dash and a 7.02-second three-cone at 6’5” and 272 pounds. As a “rotational player” at Iowa, he managed to record 19 tackles for loss and 13 sacks over the last two seasons.