Punt God. That is the nickname San Diego State’s Matt Araiza has received from his incredible collegiate career. It’s not often the best player on a team is the punter, but that was the case for the Aztecs last season. That’s no fault to the other guys on the offensive or defensive side of the ball; it’s just that Araiza was that good. The former Aztec is regarded as one of the best punting prospects of all time and has a serious knack for going all-out to bomb the football as far as he can. However, the big question with Araiza remains: will this playstyle translate to the NFL?
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Name: Matt Araiza
Jersey: No. 2
School: San Diego State
Weight: 200 lbs
Games Watched: New Mexico State (2021), San Jose State (2021), Fresno State (2021), Boise State (2021)
Major Injury History: None
Araiza hits absolute nukes on the field. He swept the nation in punting distance this season and has some of the best power we’ve ever seen coming out of college. There’s really not much else to say in this section; he’s got that much of a leg. Araiza’s career-long is 86 yards, which is an absolutely absurd number when you think about how well that flips the field.
The problem with having all that power is Araiza can struggle to keep the ball up in the air long enough. While it worked for him in college, it could be one of his struggles at the next level. In the NFL, returners won’t just get the ball sailed right over their heads. Coordinators plan for different punters, and it’ll be pretty easy to return an Araiza punt if it doesn’t have great hang time.
Short Yardage (17/20)
This one is mostly about consistency. Araiza led the nation last season in both punts inside the 20-yard line and in touchbacks. The promise is most certainly there, but this is another example of Araiza almost needing to tune back the power. With time, he will be able to get these skills down, which is the scariest part of Araiza’s potential.
Araiza does not blow you away with pinpoint punts, but when he’s not pushing the ball 80-yards downfield, he can get it to the sideline and away from the returner well. Still, this is another trait Araiza will have to develop a bit more. Whatever team brings in Araiza, you’d like him to get working right away on accuracy. Restrict him from punting any ball over 60-yards and just make him control the field how he wants to. The flashes are there for a complete punter; now, Araiza will just have to execute with the work he puts in.
Every punter is different with the way they set up, and Punt God follows this statement. The one negative with the way Araiza goes about his motion is the speed. You can tell he’s a little quick to get the ball off. While this does prevent kicks from getting blocked, it doesn’t set up the rest of his unit that well. Otherwise, Araiza has a fluid approach to getting the ball downfield; the next step is finding the area that’s best for timing.
Araiza had some highlights at the NFL Combine, including an incredible 4.68 40-yard dash. He shows this speed and athleticism in the tackling aspect post punt. The San Diego State product shows a very nice hustle downfield and actually got four tackles last season because of this, a rarity for punters nowadays. Even though Araiza’s unit might not be able to get downfield as quickly as some would like, at least he makes the hustle plays with him and embraces the role.
A top punting prospect in the game’s history, Araiza does have his flaws. However, they are more than fixable. The leg on him is borderline generational, and there’s no doubt that Araiza will be able to adjust to what he needs to do in the NFL. The hang time and longer setup are the first aspects to hit, but at the same time, special teams coordinators cannot come in and destroy his confidence.
In terms of draft stock, Araiza has been rumored as a Day 2 pick. With the way the NFL is trending, a punter in either the second or third round would not be an issue when it’s a talent like Araiza. However, it should be by a team with next to zero holes on their roster, which is a rarity these days. Araiza will most likely end up going on Day 3, something that is more than acceptable for the talent level he brings in.
Rookie Projection: Starting Punter
Third-Year Projection: Pro Bowl Punter
Player Grade (86/100): Mid Fourth-Round Pick
Pro Comparison: Michael Dickson
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