2022 NFL Draft Scouting Report: Dane Beltonby Charlie Parent April 19, 2022 0 comments
We’ve reached that point of the draft cycle where sleepers are at the forefront. Dane Belton has been a very hot name as of late because of this. The former three-star recruit saw limited success in his first two seasons at Iowa; however, in 2021, he was able to turn it up a notch. Belton led the team in interceptions with five in an elite Iowa secondary, which tied him for fourth in the country. He also had seven pass breakups, giving signs of an early ball hawk safety. Aside from the statistics, we have to cut the tape and see if Belton can really be that late Day 2, early Day 3, big-time pickup.
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Name: Dane Belton
Jersey: No. 4
Weight: 205 lbs
Games Watched: Penn State (2021), Iowa State (2021), Maryland (2021)
Major Injury History: None
As we’ll see a lot throughout this report, Belton is a different kind of safety than most. Still, he is a player that needs instincts to survive. Against the run, Belton could process misdirection a bit better, but he’s shown good flashes of doing so. Something you really like out of Belton is how he reads the game in zone coverage. He’s able to use a nice twitch to keep a level head and filter out any play before jumping at the receiver.
Range/Closing Speed (12.25/15)
Belton’s range is not needed in the traditional way that you’d expect. He is thrown into the slot a ton, so we really see that range come when coming downhill. There are times when Belton plays two-high safety, and the range isn’t an issue here, but the lack of experience playing single-high safety alludes that Belton will not be up there at the next level. You’d like to see a greater sample size with true range, though what we’ve seen so far seems to serve Belton well.
Zone Coverage (8.25/10)
Again, not the largest sample size compared to some other safeties, but Belton has done very well in zone. He’s incredibly decisive and changes direction to get to the spot quickly. Other guys in this class tend to be inconsistent in when to go at the receiver and when to wait; however, Belton seems to always make the correct decision. Another note is that Belton chips every receiver that enters his zone, throwing their routes off a tad for the rest of the play.
Man Coverage (8/10)
The heavy dose in the slot gave us a fun look at Belton’s ability. While all the tools are there, Belton has inconsistent success in man. He doesn’t have too much size, so it’s hard to project Belton as someone who can take on tight ends. Against Charlie Kolar, Kolar did win a heavy set of reps. There are other times against receivers where Belton does very well to sink his hips and mirror routes.
Ball Skills (8.5/10)
We mentioned the statistics in our intro, and the film across three games was nearly just as good. Although it did start out rough as Belton got out-muscled by Kolar, he bounced back for a huge breakup in the Iowa State game. Against Maryland, we saw a textbook pass break up from Belton to go along with a nice body adjustment to nab an interception. Finally, the Penn State game was a little less inspiring, though you can’t argue with the previous results.
Change of Direction (8.75/10)
Belton has a really nice twitch and the ability to change direction. His hips are great when working both sideline-to-sideline and downhill. This is one of Belton’s most attractive traits, one that sets up for a pretty high ceiling. Belton’s testing also backed up what you see on film, as he performed nicely in the agility drills throughout the pre-draft process.
Tackling/Run Support (5/10)
One could argue that this part is two-fold, but it’s hard to tell. First, Belton is awful at tackling. Sure, he makes some solid ones once in a while; however, there are just tons of straight-up whiffs. Against the run, Belton is a little more inspiring. He can shoot into the backfield with unique explosiveness, though it’s finishing the play that is the big issue. If teams want to use Belton’s value in the run game, he’ll need to get much better as a tackler first.
There’s a lot to like about the way Iowa used Belton. He played all over the field, and it’s a cause for excitement in the NFL. The only problem is Belton doesn’t project to do the same in the NFL. Until his man technique gets better, teams won’t be able to fully trust Belton out in the slot, the place he plays the most in. Early on, Belton should start off playing in two-high and in the box while receiving some reps in the slot but on a short leash.
Athleticism is the reason why Belton is getting all the hype as of late. He posted a 9.35 raw athletic score between NFL Combine and Pro Day testing. The most exciting metric was the 4.43 40-yard dash, with an absurd 1.49 10-yard split. Aside from the 40 time, Belton posted some really nice explosion scores, proving again that this is a huge part of his game, one that creates the potential.
The steam coming off of Belton’s name is a little overhyped, though still pretty warranted. He’s a good football player. However, the role Belton plays in the NFL is tricky to predict. There are tons of things that Belton needs to clean up before taking on a bigger NFL role, but he can do so. The reason we say that is because of the athleticism, explosiveness, and change of direction. These three provide a nice foundation on which you can only hope Belton capitalizes. Finally, in terms of draft stock, Belton should go mid-to-late Day 2. It wouldn’t be surprising if he slips past this because of the flaws or goes before this projection because of the tools.
Rookie Protection: Rotational Defensive Back
Third-Year Projection: Lower-Tier Starting Defensive Back
Player Grade (78.5/100): Mid-Third Round Pick
Pro Comparison: Will Harris
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