Entering the 2022 offseason, the New York Giants lacked depth and talent on their roster. New general manager Joe Schoen had the tall task of managing the Giants’ tight salary cap while acquiring talent. It seems he has done just that, especially with his first draft class as the team’s GM. Schoen and the Giants had the luxury of two top-ten draft selections in the first round of this year’s draft. New York was nearly guaranteed to walk away with two day-one starters in the first round. But the draft does not end after round one, and hitting on mid-round draft picks was crucial for the Giants. So far, it looks so good, as two mid-round rookies are being projected as surprising day-one starters: tight end Daniel Bellinger and defensive back Dane Belton.
The Giants revamped their roster this offseason, releasing and letting go of starting players on both sides of the ball. New York let starting tight end Evan Engram walk in free agency while cutting both of his backups in Kyle Rudolph and Kaden Smith. This left a major need at the tight end position for the Giants this offseason, and it looks like they filled that need in the fourth round of this year’s draft. The Giants drafted tight end Daniel Bellinger out of Sand Diego State with the 112th pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. It is unusual to find a starter that late in the draft, but after 10 days of OTAs, it appears Bellinger is in line to roll out with the first team.
Dane Belton, rookie safety out of Iowa, also seems like he could be starting in September. The Giants drafted Belton two picks after Bellinger at 114 overall. Like Daniel Bellinger, Dane Belton is also turning heads as a potential starter during OTAs. It would be extraordinary if Joe Schoen did indeed manage to land two starters in the fourth round of this year’s draft.
Daniel Bellinger and Dane Belton practicing with the first team
An interesting storyline developing at Giants’ OTAs is the emergence of the team’s two fourth-round draft picks. According to Zack Rosenblatt of NJ.com, Dane Belton and Daniel Bellinger “have already emerged as possible Day 1 starters.”
Daniel Bellinger could be the Giants’ starting tight end this season
Daniel bellinger has been taking practice reps with the first team despite other veteran tight ends being healthy and competing for the position:
Thursday, Bellinger got the majority of the reps with the first-team offense ahead of veterans Ricky Seals-Jones and Jordan Akins, and he’s been a favorite target of Jones’ throughout OTAs. Where some rookies have been getting first-team reps in part because of injuries to others — including Belton — both Seals-Jones and Akins are healthy and practicing. – Zack Rosenblatt of NJ.com
Dane Belton taking first team reps at Giants OTAs
Dane Belton is a versatile player with the ability to line up at multiple defensive positions. He has done exactly that at OTAs, surprisingly receiving reps with the first team in practice.
Belton’s first-team reps on Thursday were a bit more of a surprise — though understandable considering his versatility and the absence of some defensive backs. Cornerbacks Aaron Robinson and Holmes, plus safety Jarren Williams didn’t participate.
But projected safety starters Xavier McKinney and Julian Love did — and Belton was out there anyway. Belton lined up as a third safety for much of the afternoon, and even was out there when Love or McKinney would sub out too. McKinney is locked in as a starter, but Love has mostly been a backup in his career anyway and this coaching staff didn’t draft him — they picked Belton. – Zack Rosenblatt of NJ.com
Should Daniel Bellinger and Dane Belton start for the Giants as rookies?
It is unusual to see fourth-round draft picks enter the NFL as day-one starters, but it is not impossible. Daniel Bellinger and Dane Belton are talented players and they both play positions where the Giants lack depth.
Daniel Bellinger could be the Giants’ starting tight end this season. The San Diego State product is as sure-handed as they come and appears to be a perfect fit in Brian Daboll and Mike Kafka’s offensive scheme. Bellinger averaged 14.5 yards after the catch per reception, which ranked first of the prospects in the 2022 NFL Draft class (PFF). Daniel Bellinger is also a willing blocker and a secure catcher. He had 0 dropped passes in the 2021 season to go along with a 4.2% drop rate for his entire collegiate career.
Dane Belton is a superior athlete. His relative athletic score (RAS) was an elite 9.41 after an impressive day of athletic testing at the Scouting Combine. Belton ran a 4.43s 40-yard dash with a blazing-fast 1.49s 10-yard split. The versatile defensive back has the straight-line speed to make the break on passes and make plays. Making plays is what Dane Belton was all about during his collegiate career. He totaled 5 interceptions and 7 passes defended in 2021. The Giants may have found a gem in Dane Belton.