2022 NFL Draft: Matt Araiza Scouting Report

Matt "Punt God" Araiza preparing to kick a booming punt
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Matt Araiza NFL Draft Overview

Position: Punter
Height: 6’1⅛”
Weight: 200 lbs.
School: San Diego State University

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Matt Araiza 2022 NFL Draft Profile

Matt Araiza, better known as “Punt God”, played for the San Diego State Aztecs for a total of three seasons between 2019 and 2021. In 35 games across three years at San Diego State, he punted 84 times for 4,293 yards— a 51.1 yards-per-punt rate. Throughout his time as an Aztec, Araiza also successfully kicked 96 of 97 extra-point attempts and 50 of 68 field-goal attempts.

“Punt God” did not begin punting for the Aztecs until the 2020 season, when he booted 5 of them at a 49.8 yards-per-punt clip. By the end of his first season shouldering any of the responsibilities of a punter, Araiza had kicked 51 of 52 extra points and 32 of 40 field goals through the uprights. His kicker statistics certainly took a hit when he became the full-time punter, however. In his final season at San Diego State, Araiza made a mere 18 of his 28 field goals (although he did not miss any of his 45 extra point efforts).

He opened the 2021 season with 511 punting yards in a single game. Over the course of the 2021 campaign, Araiza displayed unreal leg strength, booting an FBS record 39 punts of over 50 yards. He also set the FBS record for punts of 60 yards or more with 18. In fact, he booted two punts over 80 yards! With 4,044 punting yards in 2021, Araiza posted nearly 400 more yards than the next punter. The 2021 Ray Guy Award winner was a consensus All-American, setting the season record for yards per punt while also leading college football in punting yardage.

Some called him a player to watch, and he gave good reason for this throughout his tenure at San Diego State. As a punter, his lowest regular-season yardage in a game was 197 yards— and that came on a mere three punts! As a kickoff specialist, Araiza sent 62 of 73 kickoffs for touchbacks, illustrating his versatility as a punter-kicker hybrid.

Strengths

  • Excellent athlete (comparable if not superior combine scores to Trey McBride);
  • Polished footwork and quick mechanics;
  • Routinely pursues and makes tackles down the field on kickoffs and punts;
  • Pro-ready punting mechanics (does not punt rugby-style);
  • One of the strongest legs in recent memory.

Weaknesses

  • Coffin corner needs work;
  • Drop placement in shorter punting positions needs work;
  • Needs to tighten up on the punter equivalent of a gunslinger mentality, focus on touch and timing.

NFL Comparison: Marquette King

Teams With Need at the Position: Arizona Cardinals, Buffalo Bills, Carolina Panthers, Chicago Bears, Denver Broncos, Indianapolis Colts, Los Angeles Chargers, Los Angeles Rams, Minnesota Vikings, New England Patriots, Pittsburgh Steelers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Projection: Second-to-Fourth Round

Bottom Line on Matt Araiza

Araiza is an incredible athlete, especially for a punter or kicker. With a superior broad jump to Trey McBride and a similar 40-yard dash to wide receiver Justyn Ross, he is sure to inspire the special teamers around him with his athleticism. Additionally, he is an enthusiastic and willing tackler. He routinely takes effective angles down the field to tackle returners instead of sitting back and waiting for them to reach him.

This toughness would make any professional special teams coordinator pound the table on day two, possibly three. Perhaps, however, it is the craftier coordinators and head coaches who can take advantage of his most interesting yet uninteresting trait. As a left-footed kicker, Araiza likely will not spend much time kicking field goals or extra points. However, this is a benefit for a punter. It creates a wrinkle for other teams to figure out how to practice against. Bill Belichick, for example, is notorious for preferring left-footed punters. This is because their punts spin the ball in the opposite direction of most punts a returner will see.

There is more good news for the young “Punt God.” Teams with low percentages of punts downed inside the 20 yard line almost exclusively missed playoffs. Additionally, San Diego State’s special teams unit used a scheme closer to what is run at the professional level. This means he does not utilize Australian- or Rugby-style punts. More importantly, all of his weaknesses are coachable. Scouts saw this in action at the NFL Combine, where he impressed in punter drills. There, he showed improved command of pooch-style punts. It is not a stretch to say he is arguably the best punting prospect in more than a decade. As such, Araiza is likely to hear his name called sooner than later in the 2022 NFL Draft.

Main Photo: Embed from Getty Images