In this 2022 NFL Draft Profile, we delve deep into the tape to see what makes tight end Daniel Bellinger one of the best sleeper options on day three of the draft.
Height – 6’5”
Weight – 253 Pounds
DOB – September 22, 2000 (21 years old)
School – San Diego State
Position – Tight End
Arm Length – 32 1/2”
Hand Size – 10 1/8”
Wingspan – 76 5/8”
40-Yard Dash – 4.63 Seconds
Vertical Jump – 34.5”
Broad Jump – 125”
Bench Press – 22 Reps
3-Cone Drill – 7.05 Seconds
Daniel Bellinger was born in Las Vegas and attended Palo Verde High School where he was a multi-sport athlete. He starred for the basketball team, leading to a second-team all-league selection. Bellinger also excelled for the track and field team, making the regional finals in multiple events (400m and 4-400m relay). That’s not all! He was also part of a 4×100-meter relay team that placed third at the Nevada State Championships.
Wow, that’s a lot and we haven’t even gotten to his best sport — football. On the gridiron, Bellinger was starting linebacker and tight end for the squad. He averaged nearly 18 yards per reception, and paced the team with over 100 tackles as a senior. This led to Bellinger being named the High School Athlete of the Year. Furthermore, the three-sport athlete was also a model student academically.
This full package of intangibles began garnering interest on the recruiting trail, primarily from schools on the west coast. Bellinger received offers from the likes of California, UNLV, and Weber State to name a few, even considering the Naval Academy at one point. Ultimately, he chose the San Diego State Aztecs for the next step of his football journey.
As a freshman, Bellinger only found the field for a mere 59 snaps, but that quickly changed during his second collegiate campaign. He eclipsed his career snap total in his very first start versus UCLA, but did not record a catch. This was the first of eleven starts in 2019 for Bellinger, leading to a stat line of 15 catches for 201 yards and three touchdowns. He replicated that by posting similar stats as a junior.
Bellinger entered his final season on campus with a fire under him. He started eleven games and set career highs across the board. His 31 receptions and 357 yards may not jump off the paper at you, but I assure you each catch was vital to the teams’ success. Whenever a big catch was needed, Bellinger was the guy they called upon to move the chains. This shows how flawed it is to go strictly off of box scores, context always matters.
After completing a solid college career, Bellinger received invites to both the Senior Bowl and the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine. He was a standout for me during his time in Mobile, showing off his athletic prowess that wasn’t always highlighted at San Diego State. Bellinger showed a high IQ, and a willingness to soak up any and all information from the NFL coaches at his disposal.
Bellinger parlayed this performance into an even better one at the Combine. To the surprise of many, he blazed an astonishing 4.63 40-yard dash, good enough for fourth at the tight end position. Not only is he fast, he’s strong too. Bellinger put up 22 reps on the bench press, solidifying the strength that was apparent on his tape. Now that Bellinger has vaulted his name into the minds of talent evaluators and seen his 2022 NFL Draft stock rise, let’s dive in and see what traits are NFL ready and which need to be improved.
2022 NFL Draft Scouting Report
Athleticism – Many would have never guessed that Bellinger was as great of an athlete as he is without the Combine performance. Bellinger is one of the best pound-for-pound athletes in this draft class, combining 4.6 speed with a 6’5”, 253 pound frame. He did not look out of place during offseason pass catching workouts, so the label of being a “blocking only” tight end should officially be shed.
Strength – As stated before, Bellinger put up an impressive 22 reps on bench press. Furthermore, his strength was regularly put on display at San Diego State. As a run blocker, he moves people with ease. Bellinger has a strong anchor and uses the power in his lower half to create leverage, resulting in spaces for the running backs to slide through. During his time with the Aztecs, be played a big part in their talented run game.
Blocking – Bellinger is the best blocking tight end available in 2022. He uses the aforementioned package of athleticism and strength to complete his assignments both as a run blocker and in pass protection. He enjoys contact, and regularly seeks it out. Bellinger will have no adjustment period in the NFL as a blocker. He should be able to contribute in that regard immediately upon being selected.
Hands – Along with a surprising athletic profile, Bellinger surprised me by how great his hands are. Again, this covers both blocking and as a pass catcher. In the blocking game, he uses out-of-this-world grip strength to manipulate his assignments effortlessly. As a pass catcher, he uses those same hands to attack the ball. Bellinger is not afraid to haul in a pass through traffic, and does not drop the football.
Route Tree – Through no fault of his own, Bellinger didn’t get a chance to flex his route running prowess as much as he could have. The San Diego State offense didn’t call for much diversity in the route tree, nor did it give Bellinger much of a chance to add to it. At the Senior Bowl and the Combine he performed extremely well in pass catching drills, so he is well on his way to checking this box off.
Production – This is a familiar theme. Bellinger doesn’t have much production to speak of, relative to his classmates at tight end. Often utilized as a blocker, Bellinger simply was not asked to be a high volume player. It was said before the 2021 season that the team would try to target him “upwards of ten times a game”. But alas, that never came to fruition. Now it will be up to teams’ betting on his upside as a pass catcher since he didn’t get a chance to fully showcase his talent there.
Red-Zone Threat – A lot of this can also be blamed on play calling. It is not Bellinger’s fault that he is such an asset as a blocker. Because he is though, many times in the red zone you would see him doing that rather than going out on routes. His five career touchdowns can lead people to believe that he’s incapable of getting open with a short field. This is simply untrue because that is what Bellinger excels at. Instead, it comes down to a lack of opportunity. I know I’m beating a dead horse here, but that is the source of all my issues with Bellinger’s game.
A lot of Daniel Bellinger’s 2022 NFL Draft grade relies on projection, even more so than most prospects. Due to a low usage rate and a lack of tape as a pass catcher, it is easy to write off the San Diego State tight end. Once you look deeper though, you can see how much potential is bubbling under the surface. Bellinger is still developing, but the upside he offers makes him worth taking on day two of the 2022 NFL Draft for a team that is looking for a starter at the position. Do not be surprised if Daniel Bellinger is one of the best tight ends from this class five years from now.