GREEN BAY – The Packers had lots of choices when it came to select their first-round draft choice on Thursday night. After all, they had positional needs all over the field. Including on the offensive line, defensive backfield, and at wide receiver.
Instead, they chose another need, picking Iowa edge rusher Lukas Van Ness.
“I couldn’t ask for a better result,” Van Ness said shortly after being drafted. Ironically, Van Ness was in Wisconsin at his parents’ vacation home in the Village of Fontana near Lake Geneva to watch the draft with friends and family. “I’m so happy to be a Packer. I can’t wait to get out there and wear that green.”
Van Ness registered a combined 13 1/2 sacks and 20 tackles for loss in two seasons at Iowa, all without starting a single game for the Hawkeyes.
“I’m a very power-oriented rusher,” Van Ness told reporters via Zoom shortly after his selection. “I feel like using my length to separate from offensive linemen, associated with my power, can be very dangerous. Been working on a lot of stab-club counters inside, and I think if you put me outside, I can be very dangerous on the edge.”
Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst said Van Ness’ will be expected to contribute immediately, but was also a pick for the future, after Green Bay gets out of the dead-cap hit from Aaron Rodgers’ salary that will come off the books in 2024. In all, the team has over $57 million in dead-cap contracts from former players, which will all but completely prevent them form making any moves in this spring’s free agent market.
“It’s helpful, but it really didn’t drive the decision at all,” Gutekunst said of Van Ness’ long-term prospects. “As you guys know, especially in the draft, we really think more long-term than immediately.
“This will have some immediate help for sure, but it’s really more of a long-term thought process.”