Drops Wrench into Vikings Mock Draft

Mar 1, 2023; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Iowa defensive lineman Lukas Van Ness (DL47) speaks to the press at the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports.

Just when you thought the mock-draft community had every feasible Minnesota Vikings scenario covered, entered the fold with a wrench for one final head-scratcher.

The Vikings are scheduled to pick 23rd Thursday night, although the team could trade up the board for a quarterback of the future or down for more draft capital. Drops Wrench into Vikings Mock Draft

But don’t tell that to’s Charles Davis, who authored his final mock draft of the 2023 cycle. He has eyes on Iowa EDGE rusher Lukas Van Ness for Minnesota at No. 23.

Drops Wrench into
Oct 29, 2022; Iowa City, Iowa, USA; Iowa Hawkeyes defensive lineman Lukas Van Ness (91) reacts against the Northwestern Wildcats during the first quarter at Kinnick Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

Van Ness was considered an automatic Top 10 or Top 12 pick, guaranteed not to be available to Minnesota “that far back” in the draft — until Wednesday.

Davis explained the selection, “The Vikings would have loved to add a QB here, but are also excited to grab this Hawkeye and continue to improve a defense that struggled often in 2022. Van Ness will be put to good use quickly by new defensive coordinator Brian Flores.”

Iowa defensive lineman Lukas Van Ness, left, celebrates a sack with defensive end Joe Evans during an NCAA football game against Nevada, Saturday, Sept. 17, 2022, at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa. © Joseph Cress/Iowa City Press-Citizen / USA TODAY NETWORK.

If the Van Ness theory somehow came to fruition — a longshot, to be sure — Minnesota would employ one of the deadliest EDGE groups in the NFL if it doesn’t already. The group would resemble this should the Vikings nab the Hawkeye:

  • OLB1: Danielle Hunter
  • OLB2: Marcus Davenport
  • OLB3: Lukas Van Ness
  • OLB4: Za’Darius Smith
  • OLB5: D.J. Wonnum
  • OLB6: Patrick Jones
  • OLB7: Luiji Vilain
  • OLB8: Benton Whitley
  • OLB9: Curtis Weaver

Close to a consensus Top 12 pick, before the Davis mock draft, The Draft Network‘s Joe Marino described Van Ness’ skillset, “There’s so much to like about Van Ness and it starts with his functional strength. His ability to convert speed to power and play through blockers is outstanding. He maximizes his ability to bull rush and collapse the pocket with plus length, timing, and functional power to truly stress the anchor of offensive linemen.”

Van Ness played 26 games at Iowa and mind-bogglingly never started one.

“Van Ness has the makings of an impact starter in the NFL, where he has a high ceiling to develop into. His room for growth makes him even more exciting, given his relative newness to playing on the edge,” Marino concluded.

Iowa defensive lineman Lukas Van Ness (91) warms up during an NCAA Big Ten Conference football spring practice, Saturday, April 17, 2021, at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa. © Joseph Cress/Iowa City Press-Citizen via Imagn Content Services, LLC.

If Minnesota brings Davis’ plan to life, general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah would fully wrap his arms around the best player available philosophy, as EDGE rusher isn’t an emergent team need. Too, a Van Ness pick could signal questionable futures for Danielle Hunter and Za’Darius Smith with the Vikings.

Minnesota hasn’t drafted a Round 1 EDGE rusher in 18 years.

Van Ness will turn 22 in July.

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sal Spice. His Vikings obsession dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).

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