The New England Patriots 2023 NFL draft priority is an offensive tackle. A top tackle is essential not only for this season but the future.
The team’s second pick should be directed to adding another difference-maker to the defensive line. Nothing changed. This space has suggested Siaki Ika of Baylor a massive defensive tackle to plug the middle. It’s worked for them before.
Yet, there is an alternative option to explore in a hybrid defensive end or edge player. It may take a slight reordering of the top picks but maybe not a dramatic one.
Let’s take a look at a player who fits the bill.
New England Patriots select Lukas Van Ness of the Iowa Hawkeyes
A dynamic defensive end or edge player, Lukas Van Ness should open eyes at the combine. Major mock drafts project him anywhere from sixth overall to 30th. He could trend toward the top of that range with a solid combine.
In the black, gold, and white of Iowa, he certainly looks like a Pittsburgh Steeler in waiting, perhaps in the mold of a bigger T.J. Watt-type player.
Van Ness’ 2022 season was described this way by nfldraftbuzz.com,
"As a sophomore for the Hawkeyes in 2022 Van Ness played in 12 games and took part in 458 snaps for the Hawkeyes. He recorded 15 tackles, 11 assists, while adding 18 stops. As a pass rusher, he chalked up 43 total pressures, and 29 QB hurries, 6 QB hits, and an impressive 8 sacks during the year."
At 6’5 tall and 269 pounds, he looks the part and plays with excellent football speed. He pressures the quarterback, gets sacks, and can do it both from outside or inside.
A few additional pounds and imagine Van Ness as a havoc-wreaking perfect inside complement to Christian Barmore. He has a non-stop motor and also blocks kicks.
Nfl.com’s scouting overview has the following to say,
"Nicknamed “Hercules” by teammates, Van Ness is a well-developed defensive end with excellent lean mass and additional growth still to come. He’s a power-centric prospect with force as his modus operandi as both a run defender and pass rusher … He’s taken snaps inside at Iowa but might need to keep filling out his frame before he’s ready to succeed as a run stuffer and pass rusher as a 4i in a 3-4 front. Van Ness is more of a splash player than consistent force on tape, but he possesses projectable traits that should allow for continued ascension as a pro."
How the New England Patriots can handle the draft if they want Van Ness
Should the New England Patriots see Van Ness as a can’t-miss prospect and can’t pass him up, they can maybe get the player and still meet their primary objective, shoring up the offensive tackle position.
The team can trade down in the first round from pick 14 and hopefully get Van Ness while picking up another top pick or two. The next move would be clear.
You select the best remaining offensive top tackle available in the second round. Alternatively, they trade up to the first again and get a top-four tackle who may have slipped, or a mammoth bookend to Trent Brown, Dawand Jones.
Drafting Van Ness and Jones with the first two picks guarantees an A++ draft. Additionally, armed with more picks and using a consensus draft method, it could rate even higher.
What do you think of the New England Patriots drafting Lukas Nan Ness? We’d like to hear.