General manager Brian Gutekunst and the Green Bay Packers addressed an issue of need Thursday night with their first pick of the 2023 NFL Draft. The Packers traded up to the 13th overall pick as a piece of the Aaron Rodgers trade. They used the pick to take Iowa defense end Lukas Van Ness. Gutekunst compared Van Ness to a former All-Pro Packers linebacker.
Brian Gutekunst compares new player to Za’Darius Smith
Gutekunst held a press conference follwing the completion of the first round Thursday night. Gutekunst spent much of the press conference praising the former Iowa standout. He knew many fans were hoping for pass catcher, but Gutekunst said the it was important for the team to improve their pass rush. Gutekunst thinks Van Ness can contribute to the Packers pass rush during the 2023 season.
Gutekunst compared Van Ness’ traits to former Packers outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith. According to Rob Demovsky with ESPN, Gutekust said Van Ness is an explosive athlete more like an edge, but can also attack the inside.
“He’s a different player than Z [Za’Darius Smith] but I think he’s going to be able to do a lot of the same things moving inside.”
Packers GM Brian Gutekunst called Lukas Van Ness primarily an Edge who also can go inside.— Rob Demovsky (@RobDemovsky) April 28, 2023
Described him as “big, powerful, fast, explosive.”
“He’s a different player than Z (Za’Darius Smith but I think he’s going to be able to do a lot of the same things moving inside.” pic.twitter.com/170uAQ3T88
Smith was dominant in his three seasons with the Packers. If Van Ness can progress into that type of player, the Packers defense should improve from where it was last season. Smith’s 13.5 and 12.5 sacks in 2019 and 2020 were noticeably missing from the unit in 2021 and 2022. One wonders if the defense could have propelled the Packers to the playoffs with those types of numbers last season. Maybe Van Ness can help the Packers test that theory shortly.
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