When a tight end is drafted in the fourth round of the NFL Draft, he is generally not expected to do much in his rookie season. The tight end developmental curve in the league is steep, and many rookies redshirt their first season.
Instead, Daniel Bellinger found himself with a starting role on a New York Giants team that was desperate for playmakers. Let’s discuss his somewhat tumultuous rookie season and the projected role for his sophomore campaign.
By the numbers
Position: Tight end
Contract: second year of four-year, $4,453,112 rookie deal | $793,112 guaranteed at signing | 2023 cap hit: $1,068,278
Career to date
Bellinger started 32 college games in four seasons at San Diego State. He was an honorable mention for All-Mountain West Conference in 2020. He caught 29 passes for 344 yards and two touchdowns in his senior year, posting a 66.2 overall Pro Football Focus grade and a 64.0 run-blocking grade.
Bellinger was selected with the 112th overall pick in the 2022 draft by the Giants. Due to a proliferation of injuries and a lack of depth at the tight end position, Bellinger found himself with a starting role in 12 personnel from Week 1. He finished the year with 30 receptions on 35 targets (86%) for 268 yards and two touchdowns, including 14 first downs, in 12 games (11 starts).
Bellinger was a nice safety blanket for Daniel Jones at times, including from Weeks 3 through 6, when he posted an overall PFF grade of 73 or above in three of four games. However, after being poked in the eye by Jaguars linebacker Devin Lloyd in Week 7, Bellinger fractured his eye socket and required surgery.
Bellinger missed five weeks before returning to finish out the year, from which point he exceeded a 60 PFF grade just once (in Week 17 vs. Indianapolis). He had three receptions for 21 yards and a touchdown in the Giants’ two postseason games.
Bellinger finished the 2022 regular season with a 61.5 PFF run-blocking grade and a 52.1 pass-blocking grade.
After the Giants traded for Darren Waller during the offseason, Bellinger is rightly relegated to the TE2 role. He will play primarily in 12 personnel (one running back, two tight ends).
Bellinger could still have an impact as a safety blanket for Jones, as he showed an ability to catch the ball when targeted. Bellinger’s ability to play inline, where he played 445 of his 675 snaps last season, will allow the Giants to move Waller around.
Overall, Bellinger’s 2023 role will be more in line with what a fourth-rounder pick should see. However, with Waller’s recent injury history, there is always a chance that he is thrust back into the TE1 role at some point during the season.