On the day he was drafted — April 30, to be exact — Daniel Bellinger listed the tight ends he’s watched particularly closely. Travis Kelce in the passing game. George Kittle in the pass and run game. Dallas Goedert for the whole technique.
In less than two months, Bellinger has hung with these established NFL players, as well as many other marquee tight ends. The Giants are hoping some of the promising rookies that Bellinger picked up during his short stint in Nashville will be on the field this season.
“It wasn’t true, because a year ago I was watching these guys on TV and waiting for the opportunity,” Bellinger told the Post. “Next year I’m talking to these guys, cutting, talking about football and seeing how they do things. It was really cool.”
After his first spring practice with the Warriors and before reporting to his first NFL training camp, Bellinger traveled to Vanderbilt University in late June to participate in his second Tight End University, a special camp featuring Kelsey, Kittle and former NFL tight ends. Broadcaster Greg Olsen. For three days, Bellinger — a fourth-round draft pick out of San Diego State — gathered with other rookies, middle-of-the-pack veterans and established stars to analyze everything.
Pushing aside his fears as much as he could, Bellinger put everything together and the results are showing this summer.
Seeing No. 45 in blue pull short and intermediate passes, especially from Daniel Jones, during the first four days of Giants camp shows the coaching staff’s attitude toward Bellinger. He’s been working mostly with the starting offense and it wouldn’t be a surprise if that’s where Bellinger lines up on Sept. 11, when the Giants open the season against the Titans in — you guessed it — Nashville.
“Seeing how they do it,” Bellinger said, recounting his takeaways from Tate End University. “They’re so technical with details that once I’m able to work on those fine details, it’s so small that one step can get 5 yards of separation for a 10-20-yard gain.”
Bellinger said the “best thing” he felt out of the convention was listening to Kelsey, the Chiefs’ star, react to his reads and defenses.
The Ravens’ sixth-round pick in 2015 has turned into an explosive pass rusher for the Raiders, a player he said he was excited to acquire. Bellinger is from Las Vegas and so Waller is his hometown tight end.
“Physically, he’s bigger than I thought,” Bellinger said. “He’s all 6-6, he’s a great guy. He does these release moves, it’s crazy. Try to learn some things from him.”
Bellinger has the size he needs at 6-foot-5 and a muscular 255 pounds. The new front office regime believes Bellinger will be more of a blocker than talent and sees his modest production as a college receiver — 68 receptions for 771 yards and five touchdowns in 31 games — as limited opportunity, not limited talent.
There was a knowing nod from Bellinger when San Diego State’s stats were mentioned.
“I got that question a lot in college, numbers, numbers,” he said. “The way I see it, ‘How can you help a team win,’ right? If that means I get 1,000 yards receiving, fine, but if I have to get 100 yards receiving and get my hands in the dirt – that’s all we need to win, as I see it. We didn’t have that many numbers in college, but we had the most wins this season, so for me it’s about winning and whatever it takes to win.”
In fact, the Aztecs were 12-2 in 2021, with Bellinger catching a career-high 31 passes.
Bellinger reported to his first NFL camp and was immediately placed on the unable to perform list with four injuries. This surprised him a bit. “When I was on it, I knew I was doing everything I could to get out of it,” he said. Sure enough, Bellinger cleaned up on Day 1 and didn’t miss a single snap.
The same can’t be said for Ricky Seal-Jones and Jordan Akins, the team’s new two veterans, both of whom have missed out so far. At this point, Bellinger will be disappointed if he does not emerge as the No. 1 tight end – although, to be fair, he is not yet engaged in a fully packed practice; Monday will come.
Not every rookie is fighting for the No. 1 spot. Bellinger is happy about that.
“Oh yes, I feel very privileged for that,” he said. “Thanks for that, but I had to attack that opportunity.”