The Green Bay Packers have made their first pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, selecting Iowa edge rusher Lukas Van Ness.
While many fans were hoping to see the Packers land an offensive player -- Jaxon Smith-Njigba was available -- they have added one of the best draft prospects at a premium position.
Rushing the passer was a huge problem for the Packers last season. They generated just 34 sacks. When Rashan Gary got injured, Green Bay's lack of pass-rush depth was exposed. Van Ness helps fix that.
Let's get into the Packers' first-round grade.
Packers Draft Grades: Lukas Van Ness in first round deserving of high grade
Green Bay desperately needed to improve its pass rush, and GM Brian Gutekunst wasted little time in the first round.
Van Ness is exactly the type of pass rusher the Packers love. He has good size at 6-foot-5, 272 pounds, and he is an outstanding athlete, with a Relative Athletic Score of 9.39 out of 10. Van Ness is a powerful player and will make life miserable for offensive linemen in the NFC North.
From Pro Football Focus: "Van Ness is an ascending power rusher with unique strength and flexibility. When he wants to go through offensive linemen, he almost always can."
This feels a lot like the Rashan Gary pick back in 2019. Gary needed time to develop, but he was a phenomenal athlete with all the tools to become a dominant pass rusher. Van Ness can do the same. Like Gary, he can line up across the defensive front. He can rush off the edge or line up inside.
In year one, Van Ness doesn't need to start. Gary and Preston Smith will be ahead of him on the depth chart. But we have to imagine where the Iowa pass rusher can be a year or two from now. And that's where it gets exciting.
With Aaron Rodgers gone, the Packers are smart to think long-term. They have added an excellent prospect at a premium position, and also an area they needed to improve.
Van Ness to Green Bay is an A. Yes, a wide receiver would've been nice, but the Packers can get pass-catching help later on. Van Ness can be a star to build around on defense.