2022 NFL Draft Profile: San Diego State TE Daniel Bellinger
The Aztecs tight end was a quiet part of the team’s success for years, but he’s flashed the tools to be a big NFL contributor.
A pre-draft star looks to make good in the pros.
Daniel Bellinger has been selected by the New York Giants with the 112th overall pick, in the fourth round of the NFL Draft.
Welcome to Big Blue, @bellinger_12 💪
— New York Giants (@Giants) April 30, 2022
The San Diego State Aztecs of recent vintage have largely been renown for their defensive process, so it’s easy to overlook that the program has also put its share of offensive contributors into the National Football League over the last decade or so: Gavin Escobar, Donnel Pumphrey, and Rashaad Penny, just to name a few.
Add to that list Daniel Bellinger, who had one of the more thankless roles in the Aztec offense over the last couple years as its primary tight end. Without a stat line like that of Trey McBride or Cole Turner, it’d be tempting to think there’s no way he could measure up but outstanding performances throughout the pre-draft process put the lie to a lack of catches and touchdowns. Put simply, Bellinger can play.
The question now is where that will be.
Measurables (taken from Mockdraftable)
Don’t confuse the lack of receptions in college with an inability to catch the football. Draft analysts, from NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein to The Draft Network’s Drae Harris to The Athletic’s Dane Brugler, are generally in agreement that Bellinger has the hands to succeed as a pass-catcher in a NFL offense. He also has the hand-eye coordination and catch radius to remain capable of lining up in the slot, though he may end up closer to the point of attack more often in 12 personnel.
That’s because most of what he was asked to do at San Diego State involved helping the Aztecs’ running game, and he’s got the tools to continue helping out in that front. What Blue Chip Scouting’s Devin Jackson calls a “finisher’s mindset” allows him to play effectively inline, something about which analysts have questions in Mountain West peers like Derrick Deese Jr. and Cole Turner, where his hands and willingness to get physical can help running backs get through their running lanes.
Despite the catchy 40-yard dash time at the NFL Combine, Bellinger won’t be confused for a Travis Kelce-like downfield threat in the passing game because there appears to be some disagreement as to just how athletic he is: Brugler tabs Bellinger as an “above-average athlete” but believes he is more “one-speed” and Harris describes him as being more “sufficient”, while Football Sapient’s John Vogel and NFL Draft Buzz take a more lukewarm overall stance.
While he flashed some ability to earn yards after the catch as a route runner with the Aztecs, offenses may end up getting more from him as a possession receiver rather than one to be counted on for chunk plays since he isn’t particularly elusive. That may limit his upside relative to others who flashed big-time tools, like Virginia’s Jelani Woods, but there’s nothing wrong with being a high-floor prospect.
Bellinger looked sharp at both the Senior Bowl and the NFL Combine and definitely made himself a good chunk of money with those performances. He may not be quite the chess piece that other tight ends in this year’s class could be, but Bellinger won’t be pigeon-holed into one role on a pro offense and he’s a good bet to hear his name early on Day 3, probably in the fourth round.