National writers grade the Packers’ pick of Lukas Van Ness

As you might expect, there were a wide variety of opinions on the Green Bay Packers‘ selection of Lukas Van Ness in the first round of the NFL Draft on Thursday, ranging from an “A” grade to a “D,” and plenty in between.

ESPN’s Mel Kiper didn’t assign a grade but called it one of his first-round head scratchers.

“This is a reach,” Kiper wrote. “Green Bay passed up its chance to take any of the wide receivers and any of the tight ends for Van Ness, a 6-foot-5, 272-pound hulking edge rusher. Why not help out inexperienced quarterback Jordan Love? Van Ness is No. 27 overall on my board; I actually thought he could go back to Iowa and get some more seasoning ahead of the 2024 draft.

“And if the Packers wanted an edge rusher, Myles Murphy and Will McDonald IV are higher in my rankings. I don’t love this one.”

Here’s what other writers had to say about the selection:

More: Second-round mock: Packers retool around Jordan Love, adding tight end, receiver in 2023 NFL draft

More: Dougherty: General manager Brian Gutekunst shows again he has a type for Green Bay Packers first picks

Giving the Lukas Van Ness pick an ‘A’

Chad Reuter, “Van Ness’ athletic profile is similar to that of Packers edge rusher Rashan Gary, with both players featuring outstanding agility. Van Ness also has the length and functional strength to play 5 technique, as well, which is a position of need for the team. I like the value here in a young player with excellent upside.”

Giving Lukas Van Ness pick a ‘B-plus’

Scott Dochterman, The Athletic: “In two seasons at Iowa, Van Ness totaled 14 sacks as both an interior pass rusher and edge defender. In pass-rushing situations, Van Ness was too quick for most guards, and his bull rush on the edge was uncommon. He possesses violent, heavy hands although as a rookie he will be a work in progress as a run defender.

“With 34-inch arms, a 4.58 40 time and a heavy-handed bull rush, Van Ness has drawn comparisons to Justin Smith and even Howie Long. Van Ness will fit right in as a 3-4 end or outside linebacker.”

Charles McDonald, Yahoo!: “Van Ness is a solid, do-it-all defensive lineman who has room to grow and a high floor. Van Ness needs development before he can be a consistent Pro Bowl-level starter, but guys with his athleticism almost never fail. His presence gives the Packers some flexibility with Preston Smith moving forward as well.”

Giving Lukas Van Ness pick a ‘B’

Danny Kelly, The Ringer: “Van Ness reminded me a little bit of Rashan Gary throughout the draft process, so this pick for the Packers makes a ton of sense. The former Iowa standout brings high-end physical traits and plenty of untapped potential, but he needs to develop his repertoire as a pass rusher. This isn’t a headline-grabbing pick, but Van Ness should be a versatile plug-and-play contributor early in his career.”

Brent Sobleski, Bleacher Report: “Van Ness’ previous experience playing multiple positions fits well into the Green Bay Packers’ setup. The incoming rookie can either contribute as a 5-technique or bookend Rashan Gary off the edge. He’s strong and athletic enough to do either. Gary is a free agent after this season, too. On top of that, Preston Smith turns 31 later this year. Van Ness can serve in multiple roles as a rookie before the Packers coaching staff is forced to make a decision on where he’ll ultimately play. Considering the incoming defender’s history, he’ll fit right into Green Bay’s rotation.”

Giving Lukas Van Ness pick a ‘B-minus’

Pete Prisco, CBS: “This is a player with a lot of potential, but he didn’t play up to it at Iowa. He’s an effort player who has the tools to get better on the next level. Some think he will be like J.J. Watt from that standpoint, better in the NFL. Time will tell.”

Giving Lukas Van Ness pick a ‘C-plus’

Joseph Acosta, SB Nation: “I think Van Ness is a couple of years away from being good right now. He still doesn’t have a defined pass rush plan and relies very much on strength right now. However, he does have an extremely high motor and can convert speed to power in flashes. This is a Packers type of player, but one I think they could’ve traded back for.”

Giving Lukas Van Ness pick a ‘C’

Vinnie Iyer, Sporting News: “There’s no doubt Van Ness has first-round upside with his raw pass-rush skills, standing out with his explosiveness and relentless in getting after the quarterback. But he’s also a bit of a project with limited experience for a team that had more pressing offensive needs at wide receiver, tight end and tackle to boost new young starting quarterback Jordan Love.”

Pro Football Focus (grading the pick as ‘average’): “Many thought this was the spot to find quarterback Jordan Love a playmaker, but the Packers instead opted for Van Ness. He uses his power to cave in opposing pass protections and likely comes with the versatility of being able to kick inside at times.”

Giving Lukas Van Ness pick a ‘D’

Doug Farrar, USA Today’s DraftWire: “Van Ness is a good (not great) player, but I would not have given him a first-round grade for a lot of reasons, and with so much talent still left on the boards at positions of need for the Packers, this seems like a reckless luxury pick for a team that should be acquiring as many true cornerstone players as possible. And if the idea was to go after an edge defender, there were better prospects on the board.”

This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Packers get graded on Lukas Van Ness, first-round draft pick from Iowa

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