The New York Giants could have a position battle brewing on the backend of their defense. After years of playing a rotation role, Julian Love is expected to start at safety this season for the Giants. However, he does have some new competition from this year’s rookie class. Fourth-round pick Dane Belton out of Iowa could make a push for a starting position during training camp.
The Giants’ rookies report to training camp today. All eyes will be on first-round picks, Kavon Thibodeaux and Evan Neal. However, there are mid and late-round rookies worth paying attention to, like Dane Belton. Dane Belton is the rookie to watch during training camp as he finds his footing in the Giants’ new defensive scheme and competes for playing time.
Why Dane Belton could stand out in Giants training camp
The New York Giants drafted Dane Belton with the 114th overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. Belton is a versatile defensive back that lined up in numerous positions for Iowa’s defense. His versatility and ability to play the safety position could lead to playing time on the Giants’ defense as a rookie.
Dane Belton played the unique position of a “cash” defensive back in Iowa’s defense. A “cash” or “star” is defined as a safety/linebacker hybrid. Playing this position in college has prepared Dane Belton to play either in the slot or at safety in the NFL. He has the ability to line up in either position and could see his playing time rotate between the two positions.
In college, Dane Belton had a knack for making plays. He totaled 5 interceptions and 7 passes defended in 2021. Belton got his hand on the football frequently in coverage. But he also knew how to get involved in run defense. The Iowa defensive back recorded 46 total tackles and 3 tackles for loss in 2021.
Playing as Iowa’s “cash” defender, Belton thrived as a slot safety, allowing a 66.0 passer rating across 315 coverage snaps. He packs a powerful punch at 6-foot-1 and has shown an ability to thrive in a zone coverage slot role when given the opportunity (89.4 zone coverage grade in 2021). – Pro Football Focus on Dane Belton
Dane Belton’s 82.3 PFF coverage grade in 2021 ranked 4th among Big Ten Safeties. He was a ballhawk for Iowa, utilizing a rare blend of IQ and athleticism to make plays. Belton posted a 9.41 relative athletic score (RAS) after an impressive day of athletic testing at the NFL Scouting Combine. He ran a 4.43s 40-yard dash with a blazing-fast 1.49s 10-yard split.
Belton is an athletic defensive back that has the versatility to play anywhere in the Giants’ new secondary. He might be overlooked early on, but an impressive training camp campaign could shift attention toward Dane Belton. Dane Belton might not be a day-one starter in the New York Giants’ defense, but his versatility, athleticism, and playmaking ability will afford him plenty of playing time as a rookie.