Of the 13 players that the Green Bay Packers took in the 2023 NFL Draft, five of them were on defense. Of course, Lukas Van Ness, a pass rusher, was taken with the 13th overall pick in the first round. The other defensive players Green Bay drafted were Colby Wooden (fourth round), Karl Brooks (sixth round), Carrington Valentine (seventh round), and Anthony Johnson Jr. (seventh round).
Earlier this week, Chad Reuter of NFL.com released his predictions for what NFL rookies would make the All-Rookie Defensive Team. Just one of the Packers selections made his list.
Green Bay Packers Rookie Lukas Van Ness Makes Projected All-Rookie Defensive Team List
Perhaps it is no surprise that the Packers highest-drafted defender this year would be their lone representative on this list. After all, Green Bay drafted heavily on offense this year after investing seven previous first round picks on defense.
Of Van Ness’ probability of being named to the All Rookie Defensive Team, Reuter wrote:
“Green Bay needed someone like Van Ness late last year after Rashan Gary was lost to an ACL tear in Week 9. The former Hawkeye should make a bigger impact than Gary did as a rookie (two sacks in 16 games with zero starts in 2019), especially if the rising veteran star is not fully healthy at the start of the season. I think Van Ness’ strong hands and movement skills make him less of a project than many believe”
While it is highly probable that Van Ness has a bigger impact than Rashan Gary did in his rookie season, there are few factors to consider.
First, Gary only played 24% of the defensive snaps in his rookie season. 2019, the year he was drafted, was the same year the Packers signed Preston Smith and Za’Darius Smith in free agency. Both had double-digit sack seasons and Za’Darius was a Pro Bowl selection.
Secondly, the situation in which Van Ness enters Green Bay could not be more different. The team is in the midst of a major youth movement, and Preston Smith is one of just three players over the age of 30 on the roster. Additionally, there are no Pro Bowl players ahead of him on the depth chart at his position.
While there is optimism that Gary will be ready for the start of the season, that is no guarantee. Indeed, Gary could miss the first week or more, and even when he comes back, may not be able to play as many snaps as he usually would.
This means, of course, that Van Ness will have more opportunities than Gary did as a rookie. That being said, it also explains why predicting him to be on the All Rookie Defensive Team makes sense. He should have plenty of opportunities, and if he can be the player scouts projected him to be, he will have a major impact.