The New England Patriots are taking an extended look at some of the top defensive linemen in this year’s draft. After already bringing in Nolan Smith (Georgia) and Tyree Wilson (Texas Tech), they have now hosted another projected first-round pick on a Top-30 visit.
Iowa defensive end Lukas Van Ness was in New England on Wednesday, according to a post on his Instagram account.
Despite having two years of college eligibility left, Van Ness decided to turn pro coming off his 2022 redshirt sophomore campaign. He did so with back-to-back productive seasons to show for: a spot starter for the Hawkeyes, he appeared in 27 games and registered 13.5 sacks and 19.5 tackles for loss.
While his raw numbers do not necessarily stand out, they are merely an appetizer. An investment in Van Ness, after all, would be an investment in his developmental upside.
It is not hard to see why. He combines good size — 6-foot-5, 272 pounds — with natural power, a versatile skillset, some solid athleticism, and the ability to become a difference maker both as a pass rusher and a run defender. He needs to be coached up to reach his full potential at the next level, but his foundation even after only two years of college football is already an impressive one.
Part of it is his athletic skillset. Van Ness posted a 4.58-second 40-yard dash in the pre-draft process as well as a 7.02-second three-cone drill, 4.32-second short shuttle, and 118-inch broad jump. His vertical (31”) and bench press (17) fell short of expectations, but he still earned a 9.39 Relative Athletic Score.
Van Ness would make for an intriguing addition to the New England defensive line. A natural defensive end, he has inside/outside versatility and could also move to the edge if need be. As such, he falls into the Deatrich Wise Jr. mold and would add long-term stability to a D-line facing some questions, especially on the perimeter.
While both Matthew Judon remains under contract for two more years (just like Wise Jr.), the depth alongside him is shallow post-2023. Josh Uche and Anfernee Jennings are both headed for unrestricted free agency, while Ronnie Perkins has yet to play in an NFL game.
Van Ness therefore appears to be a natural target for the Patriots. At the very least, they are doing their due diligence: the 21-year-old is the 15th player invited in for a pre-draft visit.