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NFL Draft Rewind: No. 20 Lukas Van Ness

Lukas Van Ness
Lukas Van Ness (© Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports)

The NFL Draft kicks off with its opening round on April 27 in Kansas City, so Rivals is taking a look back at its projected first-round picks when they were high school prospects. We move on to our projected No. 20 - Iowa defensive end Lukas Van Ness, who was a three-star prospect in the 2020 class.


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No. 20: DE Lukas Van Ness, Iowa

Where they were ranked: The Barrington, Ill., defensive end was a mid-three-star prospect who went unranked at his position and was No. 16 in the Illinois state rankings for the 2020 class.

Recruitment: After his official visit wrapped up at Iowa, Van Ness committed to the Hawkeyes in late June before his senior season. His sister was also at the school and his father grew up an Iowa fan as he grew up in a small town near Des Moines. Minnesota, Kansas and Kansas State were his only other Power Five offers.

Biggest question: The mix of size, athletic ability and power are all there but Van Ness will need more moves than just bull-rushing and overpowering opponents at the next level? Can he develop those to become elite in the NFL?

Lukas Van Ness
Lukas Van Ness (

Memories: We should have known.

Van Ness was not on the national scene much at all but he did test well at the Rivals Combine Series in Chicago and he was invited to the Rivals Camp Series in St. Louis but he didn’t show up that day which would have given us another evaluation tool to see just how talented Van Ness was in high school.

I never saw him during his time at Barrington but Rivals national recruiting analyst Josh Helmholdt remembers a player that definitely had all the pieces to be special and was still putting them together. A few years on and Van Ness is expected to be not only a first-round draft pick but a very good possibility he will be among the first dozen players selected. Projecting him to No. 20 might be too low.

What makes Van Ness such an interesting draft pick is that a lot of what he did successfully in high school is what made him incredibly productive at Iowa as well with 13.5 sacks over the last two seasons.

The former three-star fires off the ball and wins the neutral zone to engage with offensive tackles who are instantly pushed back as the pocket collapses. When that happens, Van Ness does an excellent job of disengaging from blockers and getting the ball carrier on the ground.

In high school, Van Ness mainly played off the edge but in his Iowa highlights from 2022 there was work both inside and outside. He has devastating power all over the defensive line, he can push the pocket and has incredible burst and so Van Ness has a legit chance to be extra special in the NFL.

At 6-foot-5 and 272 pounds, Van Ness is one of the best-looking defensive linemen in this draft and I wish we would’ve taken a shot on him as a mid-level four-star coming out of high school with hindsight being 20/20.