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Dane Belton should find significant role in Giants’ defense

Former Iowa Hawkeye is accustomed to playing multiple roles

NFL: MAR 05 Scouting Combine Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

We said before the 2022 NFL Draft that safety was a position the New York Giants had to supplement. They did, selecting Dane Belton of Iowa in Round 4 (No. 114) overall. So, how much should the Giants expect out of Belton in 2022?

Let’s discuss Belton as we continue our player-by-player profiles of the 90-man roster.

By the numbers

Height: 6-foot-1
Weight: 205
Age: 21
Position: Safety
Experience: Rookie
Contract: Four-year, $4.444 million rookie deal (Not yet signed) | 2022 cap hit: $705,000

Career to date

Belton played in 30 games over three seasons for the Iowa Hawkeyes. In 2021, he had five interceptions, three tackles for loss and seven passes defensed.

Here is how Dane Brugler of The Athletic described Belton in his 2022 draft guide:

A three-year starter at Iowa, Belton played the “Cash” position in defensive coordinator Phil Parker’s scheme, lining up as a hybrid strong safety and outside linebacker. He was a First Team All-Big Ten performer in 2021 and was one of only seven Power 5 defenders with at least five interceptions last season. Belton plays with heady reaction skills, and his eyes lead him to the catch point where he can make plays on the ball naturally. However, he lacks sudden twitch in his movements and lacks consistency down the field. Overall, Belton doesn’t play as explosively as his testing numbers might suggest, but he floats naturally with the instincts and ball skills for underneath zones. He projects best as a down nickel safety in the NFL, although he needs to develop his strength and be more consistent vs. the run to see steady playing time.

2022 outlook

The NFL is a sub-package league on defense, and the Giants will find playing time for Belton alongside Xavier McKinney and Julian Love. That playing time is likely to often come as a box safety or pseudo linebacker playing close to the line of scrimmage.

In a film study of Belton, Nick Falato wrote:

“Belton is a good athlete with solid size who can be effective wearing many hats. Belton joins a safety room that consists of budding star Xavier McKinney, Swiss-Army knife Julian Love - who only has one year left on his deal - and reported UDFA signing out of Kentucky Yusuf Corker, who is more of a physical presence than an overall coverage player.”

Belton told New York media this spring that he is accustomed to wearing multiple defensive hats.

“In our base defense [at Iowa], I played a 2-high safety but any time the offense came out in 11 personnel, 10 personnel, basically passing formation, I went down to a nickel what we call cash, and really just a versatile player that has to guard slot receivers and play in the box, blitz off the edge, doing multiple things,” Belton said.

In analyzing how defensive coordinator Wink Martindale might deploy his various secondary pieces, Chris Pflum pointed to the fact that Belton both played significant snaps in the slot and did a heavy amount of blitzing at Iowa.

It is going to be interesting to see how Belton’s role unfolds. Best guess, though, is that the Giants are hoping he will be able to handle significant responsibility sooner rather than later.