Why Punter Matt Araiza Is Worth a Mid-Round Selection In 2022 NFL Draft
Brandon Sloter/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Matt Araiza.
We haven’t seen a punter taken in the third round of the NFL Draft since Bryan Anger went 70th overall in 2012. Anger had a solid year for the Cowboys last year, but he’s bounced around quite a bit over the past decade.
Well, there’s a chance another punter from the state of California goes in the third round: Matt Araiza out of San Diego State.
The 2021 Ray Guy Award winner just finished a season doing things we’ve never seen from a punter, including setting the new single-season record for longest punt average at 51.9 yards.
He also had 39 punts of more than 50 yards, which easily shattered the previous record of 32. Six of those went over 60 yards and two over 80 yards. The Punt God could boom a ball in the air with his foot further than any punter we have ever seen before.
I had him worth 2.8 points to the spread in October of last season — an astronomical number for a punter. Led by defense and special teams, the Aztecs made an appearance in the Mountain West Championship and won the Frisco Bowl over UTSA en route to a 12-2 record.
Araiza is a potentially generational talent who could be a mainstay on an NFL roster for 15 years. He has worked on his hang time in the offseason (which is more critical in the NFL) and also would bring versatility to a roster with his ability to kick field goals and boot kickoffs.
I personally think he’s worth a selection in the late third or early fourth round, especially for a team with a surplus of picks and a team need.
Araiza would be most valuable on a team with a limited offense and/or great defense where field position matters more. That’s why he was so valuable at SDSU, as the Aztecs had an elite defense but anemic offense.
That said, he’s still a punter in a league where offense rules the day. We’ve seen previously hyped college punters turn into busts at the next level, so Araiza certainly isn’t a sure thing — like any prospect — but he has the highest ceiling of any punter I’ve seen in my lifetime.
I can’t wait to see where he goes and if he can keep flipping fields with game-changing punts at the highest level.
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