Punters are NFL Draft prospects too — always have been, always will be. Yet, in San Diego State punter Matt Araiza, the 2022 NFL Draft class might possess the most high-profile and highly skilled punter prospect in recent history. Araiza has set records and social media alight with his left leg cannon this season, earning praise from the modern-day mouthpiece of a punter, Pat McAfee. In Araiza’s scouting report, we break through the numbers and noise to scrutinize his pro potential ahead of the 2022 NFL Draft.
Matt Araiza NFL Draft Profile
- Position: Punter
- School: San Diego State
- Current Year: Redshirt junior
- Height: 6’2″
- Weight: 200 pounds
Matt Araiza Scouting Report
Punter prospects in the NFL Draft are more commonplace than you’d presume. Since 2000, just two draft classes (2017 and 2011) have not had a punter selected to the NFL. There have been multiple third-round selections, while FSU punter John Stark was a second-round selection in 1982.
Additionally, Ray Guy was a first-round pick in 1973, with the award for punting success named after him. After his sensational season, Araiza is the frontrunner to land the Ray Guy Award in 2021. While a replication of Guy’s first-round selection is as unlikely as Pat Brady’s 99-yard punt for Nevada in 1950, Araiza’s scouting report reveals an NFL-worthy talent who should hear his name called on Day 3 of the 2022 NFL Draft.
Let’s start with the obvious. Where most people have legs attached to their torso, Araiza has an actual cannon. Or so it seems. The left-legged punter can effortlessly boom the ball the entire length of the field. No other player this season has two 80+ yard punts. These aren’t just courtesy of a lucky bounce either; these punts are traveling through the air.
Araiza’s leg power is also demonstrated as a field goal and kickoff specialist. The San Diego State punter has a career-long 53-yard field goal to his name. Furthermore, it’s reported that Araiza routinely makes kicks from 50+ in practice.
Versatility, athleticism, and competitive toughness
The fact that Araiza can punt, take field goals, and act as the kickoff man for a team is a crucial element to his scouting report. Versatility is next to ability — or something of that nature. Araiza can take up one spot on a roster, rather than a team having to carry a player at both punter and placekicker.
This season Araiza hasn’t had a single kick — punt or field goal — blocked. That demonstrates a level of composure that will be invaluable at the next level. While college kickers take their share of criticism, the level of scrutiny and the ability to quickly lose your job in the NFL requires an exceptional level of equilibrium. Moreover, his lack of blocked kicks demonstrates that Araiza consistently gets good elevation.
Finally, Araiza has shown toughness and athletic ability during his time at San Diego State. In the rare occurrence that one of his kicks is returned, Araiza can be found taking down the returner. He’s not just the last line of defense, either. He can be seen putting his high school track athleticism to good use getting downfield.
Areas for improvement
With his cannon for a leg, positional versatility, and increasing profile, Araiza has potential that few punting prospects have had in recent NFL Draft classes. However, that doesn’t mean that his scouting report doesn’t reveal some areas for improvement.
These primarily center around consistency. As a field goal kicker, his completion percentage has declined with every college season. In 2019, he hit 85% of his kicks. In 2020, he made 71%, and this season, he’s down to 65%. Araiza needs to ensure that his strides and ball striking remain consistent from kick to kick.
The same can be said for downing punts inside the 20-yard line. While Araiza’s 47% inside the 20 is impressive, several punters in this 2022 NFL Draft class have better numbers. Sometimes it pays to take a little power off in the name of precision.
Matt Araiza Player Profile
As Araiza rises in the 2022 NFL Draft class with the reputation as the strongest leg in college football, his prolific performances as a punter can be traced back to his roots at Rancho Bernardo High in San Diego.
During his three-year stint as the starter for Rancho Bernardo, Araiza boomed a 71-yard long punt. Meanwhile, he averaged 41.7 yards on 120 punts that tallied over 5,000 yards. The prolific punter also showcased his versatility as a powerful placekicker, hitting 77% of his 48 attempts with a career-long of 53 yards. In a sign of things to come at the collegiate level, his 37 career field goals set a San Diego Section record.
A three-time CIF San Diego State section kicker of the year and a sophomore first-team All-American, Araiza’s athletic accolades weren’t restricted to the football field. He also set school records in the 110-meter and 300-meter hurdles during his high school career. Punters can be prolific athletes too!
All this high school success mattered very little when it came to the recruiting process. A two-star prospect, Araiza was the 20th-ranked kicker in the 2018 class. Just the 270th-ranked player in California and 2,609th nationally, Araiza held only three offers, with San Diego State winning out over UMass and FCS-level Montana. As a San Diego native, there was naturally just one choice.
“Being from San Diego played a huge part in that decision,” Araiza told me. “I’m close to home, have a ton of support from friends and family. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
Araiza’s career at San Diego State
Redshirted his 2018 season, Araiza learned under San Diego State kicker John Barron II. Despite his relatively low recruiting profile, there was a level of expectation around the program when the versatile kicking weapon was finally handed the opportunity to play for the Aztecs in 2019.
“Of some of the younger ones,” San Diego State head coach Rocky Long told reporters, “probably the one we’re counting on being the best player for us is Matt Araiza. Matt Araiza’s got enormous talents.”
Long wasn’t wrong. Araiza handled kicking and kickoff duties in his first season, as his punting prowess remained hidden. However, he set a new single-season program record for field goals with 22. The redshirt freshman hit 85% of his field goals, nailed every single extra point attempt, and smashed 78% of his kickoffs through the back of the end zone.
Even then, the potential power lingering in his left leg remained lowkey. During his first two seasons with the Aztecs, he hit long field goals of 48 yards (Wyoming ’19, Colorado ’20). Meanwhile, Araiza saw some sophomore struggles, completing only 71% of his field goals and missing an extra point for the first time in his career.
Matt Araiza gives the college football world a taste of his punting prowess
Although he had some struggles as a sophomore, Araiza’s game against UNLV gave the football world its first glimpse of him as a punter. The Aztecs punter nailed 4 out of 5 punt attempts over 50 yards. Two of his attempts dropped inside the 20-yard line. Araiza hit a then career-long 58 yarder, which would turn out to be a drop in the ocean compared to punting performances to come.
In 2021, Araiza has emerged as something of a rockstar in the punting community. Following Week 11 of the college football season, his footprints adorn the record books at the position. Araiza now holds the record for punts of 50+ yards. He also has the FBS record for 60+ yard punts. He’s on pace to break the NCAA season-average record of 51 yards per punt, currently held by former Texas A&M punter Braden Mann.
Additionally, Araiza has landed 47% of his 2021 punts inside the 20-yard line. Meanwhile, he has hit a new career-long field goal (53 yards) while completing 65% of his attempts. The versatile kicker has also hit all his extra-point attempts.
Yet, these statistical accomplishments usually wouldn’t attract the level of adoration that Araiza has received this season. But when you boom not just one, but two punts over 80 yards, you earn some attention. After hitting an 86-yard punt against Hawaii, Araiza has become something of a social media starlet. He’s a premier punting prospect who has earned praise from the president of the punters.
Praise from Pat McAfee ahead of the 2022 NFL Draft
“It’s not going to be as easy in the NFL,” Pat McAfee commented on Araiza. “Might be a little different with a rush that could potentially come. But he’s a Sunday player for sure. He’s a weapon.”
A weapon is probably the best way to describe Araiza. A versatile kicker who can flip field position and force the opposition to account for him while nailing game-winning field goals with regularity is hard to find. That should ensure that Araiza hears his name called in the 2022 NFL Draft next April.