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. This season, Araiza has set records and social media alight with his left leg cannon. 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: 6’1 1/8″
- Weight: 200 pounds
- Wingspan: 73 1/8″
- Arm: 30 1/2″
- Hand: 9″
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 choice in 1982. Additionally, Ray Guy was a first-round pick in 1973, with the award for punting success named after him.
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 as early as Day 2 in 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 of 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 publicity few punters have ever attracted, Araiza has the potential to be selected significantly higher than most punters have 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 FG kicker, his completion percentage has declined with every college season. In 2019, he hit 84.6% of his kicks. In 2020, he made 71.4%, and in 2021, he’s down to 64.3%. Araiza must ensure that his strides and ball striking remain consistent from kick to kick.
Although Araiza’s leg strength is the crown jewel of his scouting report, there are times when he’ll need to take a little off his punts to achieve success at the next level. Hang time and accuracy are just as important in the NFL. While Araiza had decent success in landing punts inside the 20 this season, he needs to demonstrate consistency in this regard.
Araiza’s Player Profile
As Araiza prepares to break positional norms in the 2022 NFL Draft class, his prolific performances as a punter can be traced back to his roots at Rancho Bernardo High in San Diego. Between high school punting and a love of soccer, he developed a powerful leg that has been comfortably the most powerful in college football this last season.
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.
Araiza’s career at San Diego State
Redshirting 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.
In his first season, Araiza handled kicking and kickoff duties, 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 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. Despite those struggles, Araiza’s game against UNLV gave the football world its first glimpse of him as a punter, nailing 4 of 5 punts over 50 yards.
In 2021, Araiza has emerged as something of a rockstar in the punting community. 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. His season average of 51.19 yards set a new single-season record.
Araiza’s NFL Draft ascension
Even these statistical accomplishments usually wouldn’t attract the adoration that Araiza has received in this NFL Draft process. 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, earning the nickname “Punt God.”
Although he didn’t participate in any all-star games, Araiza’s ascension has continued through the pre-draft process. He quantified the athletic ability displayed on punt return coverage with an excellent showing at the NFL Combine. The San Diego State punter set a 4.68-second 40-yard dash while registering a 10’1″ broad and 32″ vertical jump.
Although on-field punter drills weren’t televised, onlookers inside Lucas Oil Stadium reported that Araiza was impressive during those sessions at the NFL Combine. While his power has never been in question, the San Diego State punter displayed accuracy while placing punts with aplomb in front of the eyes of the NFL.
Araiza is set to be one of the highest-selected punters in recent NFL Draft history. A versatile punter 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. As a result, there’s an ever-growing feeling that his floor in the 2022 NFL Draft will be the fifth round. His ceiling could be much higher.
Tony Pauline’s scouting report for Matt Araiza
Positives: Strong-legged punter who’s also an exceptional directional kicker. Possesses a monster leg, gets tremendous hang time on punts, and allows coverage teams to get downfield and make the play. Forces a lot of fair catches. Consistent directional punter that can kick it out to the sidelines or place it inside the 10-yard line. Used as a field-goal kicker for San Diego State and shows the ability to hit them from long distance. Does a terrific job selling fake punts.
Negatives: Takes a while to get the ball off his foot. Inconsistent accuracy on his field goals.
Analysis: Araiza took a step to the forefront last season and was a rockstar punter for the Aztecs. He possesses all the tools to start in the NFL and will be a very early draft pick for a punter.