The mystery of Lukas Van Ness
Green Bay rolled the dice on the Iowa edge rusher. Here's the full scouting report. Also, for the Bills and Giants fans, get the scout takes on Dalton Kincaid and Deonte Banks.
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Here’s what NFL scouts told Bob McGinn before the draft about the first-round draft choices of the Green Bay Packers, New York Giants and Buffalo Bills.
LUKAS VAN NESS, EDGE, IOWA
PACKERS RD. 1/PK 13.
Hometown: Barrington, Ill.
Fact/stat: Third-year sophomore. Redshirted in 2020, then played 27 games without a start the past two years. Certainly one of the first players in NFL history to be drafted without starting a single game as a collegian … Finished with 71 tackles (19 ½ for loss) and 13 ½ sacks.
AFC scout: “His value is he can probably play anywhere across the 3-4 or 4-3 except for pure nose. You can stick him inside in sub. You can pay him at left end or right end. Is he a dynamic athlete? No. He’s a little bit straight line. What he does have are strong hands and real (good) feet. He’s in the mix of a Grant Wistrom. He’s certainly more gifted than Aaron Kampman. In the (Kyle) Vanden Bosch and Patrick Kerney mold where you’ll get a day’s work out of him. He does look kind of manufactured. How do you take a guy (high) who’s never started a game? He only played 53%.”
NFC scout: “I don’t know where the best fit is for him. I don’t see a twitchy enough guy to play on the edge and be disruptive. He’s more strong than explosive. He’s got some pushback ability but doesn’t have like knockback ability so I worry about him inside if he’s truly explosive enough to come off the ball and rock people. It’s more like he gets into guys and pushes them. There wasn’t a lot of difference doing him and Anthony Nelson from there a couple years ago. He just signed a second contract (with Tampa Bay). He’s been a solid player for them. I just didn’t feel like I watching that much of a different guy for someone being talked about as a top-20 draft. Nelson went in the fourth (in 2019). I felt like they were kind of the same guy.”
AFC scout: “I don’t think they (Iowa coaches) saw him coming out. That was a little bit of a surprise. He wasn’t a starter but he got 40-some snaps a game. Thing that jumps out is how hard he plays. High-motor effort guy. He’s got good quickness. He can win some with speed but he’s more speed to power. There’s a big arrow up for him. Whoever takes him is betting on that. He can be a right end but also in a 4-3 he can be a base end or left, and when they go to nickel he’s got some inside pass rush. His best football is definitely ahead of him. He’ll go mid-to-late first.”
NFC scout: “If you don’t start at Iowa, there’s a problem. What are we doing here? The guy does not start at Iowa. The reason is, he isn’t any good. It’s bizarre. He’s not productive. He doesn’t know how to play. He gets knocked around. No pass rush. I’m shocked at this. He is not good. He’s a backup. At Iowa. They play him down, in and out. For the most part, he had his hand down. He’s absolutely not (an edge).”
AFC scout: “He’ll be a first-rounder. He’s got the size and length. He plays really hard. He just hasn’t played a ton so there’s a little bit of projection there. He’s a big, physical, hard-playin’ dude. He did really, really well with the post-season stuff … “I think he’s better (than Bryce Paup). He’s bigger. He’s probably more of a 4-3 defensive end but he can play 4-technique and rush from the interior. He has a longer, linear build. (Tyree) Wilson and (Myles) Murphy will apply more pressure on the quarterback.”
NFC scout: “He played up and down the line. In the Ohio State game you see him as an edge rusher against Paris (Johnson) and Dawand Jones. Then he came inside. This guy is all ball. All A+ across the board. He is raw. He doesn’t know what he’s doing yet as a pass rusher. He will take some time. He’s got some traits like J.J. Watt had.”
AFC scout: “He ended up running pretty fast so you can’t say he’s a 4.8 guy trying to rush the passer.”
NFC scout: “He’s steady and reliable but I didn’t see big-play pass rush. He has average twitch, yet he will be drafted higher than his skills due to his intangibles. I feel he’s going to feel the impact of the next step. He’s a good player but you want greatness in that position. … “He’s got that (strength). His game is sound. It’s based on strength and physicalness more than finesse and athleticism. He features a lot of inside hands slipping and escaping. Very fundamental versus the run. Very good point-of-attack and area defender. Excellent timing with his shed. He’s a model prisoner, too. That’s why I was surprised he departed after two years. Second round.”
AFC scout: “Big, long (34-inch arms), powerful. High motor. My only concern would be the transition going against NFL bodies from what he was going against. Good football player. The power is what flashes for me. Violent hands. Strong bull rush. Gets knockback. He could rush inside. I do like him. Likes the game. Not a vocal leader. They said he’s one of the hardest workers on the team … “He can be a 5-technique. I wouldn’t want him standing up because I don’t think he can move and cover in space … “They knew what they had in him and they didn’t want him to start this year thinking he’d come back. They won’t ever admit that but it has to be. It's not like he wasn’t playing. He still played 50 snaps a game.”
NFC scout: “He never started a game but the guy’s a player, I’m telling you. Plays hard, got instincts, tough. Can play inside or outside. I put him at the top of the second round. Highly intelligent, great kid, worker, has growth potential … “No kidding, that (17 reps on the bench press) is bad for a defensive lineman. He’s not one of those big, heavy-duty body guys. He’s an Iowa country boy. There’s a lot to work with. He’ll be an eventual starter and 10-year player. Probably a 3-4 outside backer who can go down and rush. He’s like the old elephant for the 49ers.”
NFC scout: “I’d take a shot on him. He has the power to drive a guy back and athletic enough to get off the guard. He’s also athletic enough to go outside and get you around the edge. He’s a unique player. The Iowa coaches got a little selfish. They say he should have stayed. Just a young (player). He’s a top-15 pick.”
AFC scout: “Hasn’t played a ton. I guess his dad pushed him to come out. He’s yoked up. Of the (top edges), he’s the most powerful. He is really strong. He can hold the point. He’s got an explosive power rush. Plays his ass off. He’s the grittiest, grimiest of the (top edges). He can be a 3-4 backer. His best football is ahead of him. It’s kind of crazy. You wonder, why didn’t he play more?’’
NFC scout: “He’s got a lot more left in him. Really good athlete, big, wired right. He’s in that 15 range. That’s where he belongs and he’ll be a really good player. There’s some J.J. (Watt) comparison. J.J. is probably the most similar to what he is.”
NFC scout: “I compared him to George Karlaftis, the Purdue guy last year. Tall and athletic. I thought he was powerful. Has some position flexibility. He can reduce inside. Like his length, loved his motor. High ceiling. Needs time on the job to get a little better with his hands. Didn’t love his change of direction. If you asked me who could be the best (of the edges), after (Tyree) Wilson I’d say him.”
DEONTE BANKS, CB, MARYLAND
GIANTS RD. 1/PK. 24.
Fact/stat: Made 21 starts over four seasons. Just two interceptions to go with 83 tackles and 13 passes defensed. His vertical jump of 42 inches led all cornerbacks.
NFC scout: “He’s got incredible potential. He’s No. 1 or No. 2 in all the athletic testing. He does not have natural ball skills. He needs development. He’s a developmental up-side player you roll the dice on. It’s going to take a little time. I’d say halfway through the first season he’s a starter. He will have to get comfortable.”
AFC scout: “Like him. His thing is, he’s just raw. Because he hasn’t played a ton. He can really run. Really good athlete. He’s tough. You like him in run defense. He’ll get up and mix it up, and he’s got decent strength. He is mentally raw. He’s a good kid, just kind of young. He didn’t play hardly at all in 2021. He got hurt. He came back and you could see his talent right away. He’s athletic, fast, twitchy. He’ll be fine. It’s just he may go through some growing pains at first because he’s so raw. It would not shock me at all if he went in the second round.”
NFC scout: “Quality kid. No issues. Good guy. Like him.”
AFC scout: “Good aggressiveness. Has cover ability. Had no problem vs. Ohio State and Michigan. He’s better than the safety (Nick Cross) that came out of there last year. He’s better than Darnell Savage, too.”
NFC scout: “He’s my No. 2 corner. He’s talented. Size, smooth mover, athlete, balance, body control. That Ohio State game (Nov, 19), man, he was, like, ‘This is my game.’ He went against (Marvin) Harrison Jr. and those guys, and he was good. He talked shit to those guys. The whole game. He can press and run. He’s got movement. In run support he’s strong. He can hold up against big wideouts. He just gets a little grabby downfield some but, when he’s locked in, he’s top-10 talent. He’s a true big corner with a lot of talent. Not even comparable (to Savage).”
AFC scout: “Talented guy. He’s got all the height-weight-speed. I could see him going in the second. The problem with him is, when his back’s turned to the ball, can he find it? That’s his biggest issue. He’s a tough kid. He’ll tackle you. It’s just his natural instincts for the position. Not quite as productive on the ball as you would like.”
DALTON KINCAID, TE, UTAH
BILLS RD. 1/PK. 25.
Height: 6-3 ½.
40: No 40.
Hometown: Las Vegas.
Fact/stat: Suffered a thoracic injury Nov. 26 and hasn’t played or worked out for a team since. Started two years at non-scholarship San Diego before starting 23 of 31 games for the Utes. Finished with 175 receptions for 2,623 yards (17.0-yard average) and 35 touchdowns.
AFC scout: “Really liked him. He is wow as an athlete and as a receiver. He’s not powerful as a blocker but his effort is really good, though. He’ll try. He’s just not strong. He’ll get thrown around. How many Pro Bowl and Hall of Fame tight ends are blockers? Especially not in this day and age. He is a mismatch nightmare because he can run and he’s athletic. He’s got great ball skills. He can run after the catch. He’s big play. He shows toughness as a receiver where he’ll go take a hit. If you want a dynamic receiver at tight end he’s definitely got a chance to go first round. Everybody wants a mismatch in the passing game. I don’t think he’s a top-10 (pick).”
NFC scout: “He’s a former wide receiver who has grown into being an F tight end. Excellent hands, excellent route runner, excellent awareness in the passing game. Will not be a factor in the run game. He will give you position and steer; basically, he’s a get-in-the-way blocker. His greatest strength is his ability to catch the football and run after the catch.”
AFC scout: “He’s a really good receiving tight end. He’s got natural ball skills. If you turn on the first USC game you think he’s the best tight end in the country. Outside of Caleb Williams, he’d be the second-best player on the field. He played his ass off. He had 16 catches. I think he’ll be a second-rounder.”
NFC scout: “He’d run like mid-4.5s. Those back injuries always scare me.”
AFC scout: “Brant Kuithe got hurt and this guy had to become their primary guy and ended up catching 70 passes. He’s an H-back. Good receiver and makes a block effort. I don’t think he’ll ever be a (top) blocker. Good athlete, catches the ball well. He’s not going to run (a 40) because I don’t think he can run.”
NFC scout: “He broke his back in the last game. I don’t know whether he’ll come off the board first (among tight ends) because of the medical.”
AFC scout: “If you throw the injury thing into it that’s a potential reason why he’d slide. Just going on talent, he’s first round. The back? It just depends how teams graded him, if they passed or failed him.”
NFC scout: “Love this guy. He can play. He can do it all. He’s a natural, natural receiver. I don’t want to throw (Travis) Kelce around but the routes, the hands, the feel, the separation … He’s an awesome receiver and a good blocker. He puts his face in there. He’s sticky enough. Really good on the move. They put him in-line, H-back and the slot, even wide sometimes. They put him all over the place. On third and 7 they throw to this guy. Fourth and 2? They throw it to this guy. Whatever the money down, he’s getting the ball … “With a back there’s always risk.”
AFC scout: “I like him. He had a big senior year when the other guy went down with an injury. His production increased even more. He’s not really a blocker. He’ll do enough to get in the way. But he’s a very skilled, savvy route runner. Without the back injury, I would have said he’s a definite first-round pick. With this back injury, where he’s been able to do nothing through the whole spring, he might slip a little bit.”
NFC scout: “That game he had against USC really put him on the map. He’s not a blocker although he gives some effort. He’s probably the most legit pass-catching tight end mismatch guy. He’s slipped a little because he’s got some fractures in his back.”
AFC scout: “I don’t think the back is that bad. Depends how you look at it, I guess.”
AFC scout: “He’s a weapon in the pass game. He’s good enough as a blocker. He’ll try to do it. He might (run) in the high 4.6s but I’m not sure.”
Bob McGinn’s entire draft series…
Part 6, Edge: Why the Clemson Curse 'scares the shit' out of the NFL
From what I've seen on tape, Van Ness looks like either of the Watt brothers, and better than Gary looked. That works for me. He played 1,000 snaps in 2 years. Packers have great relationship with Iowa coaching staff. Enough said.
Thank you for this series and all of the information you pulled together! What a great read. Amazing work. Love the range of feedback from the scouts! Greatly appreciate you fitting this into your schedule AND all of the effort you put into the reports and reports like this one. You are a true "Hall of Famer" and on the Mt Rushmore of Football writers of all time! It has been an honor and pleasure to always read your work - THANK YOU! GO PACK!