By Dylan MacKinnon
Usually punter would not even be a position you look at in the draft. But when someone gets the nickname “Punt God,” it grabs your attention. Matt Araiza out of San Diego State is getting more hype than any punter ever. Since punters usually don’t get hype, that is not saying much. But there is actual buzz for a punter this year, and when you watch him, it is easy to see why.
Last year Eagles punter Arryn Siposs started really strong. But he faded down the season. He was shanking punts left and right. And even the punts he got under were lackluster. To that point, the Eagles probably need to make a change. But would they consider investing draft capital in a Punter. Let’s take a look at the man known as the Punt God, Matt Araiza.
Booming Punts and Setting Records
Araiza finished this season the new All Time Leader for average punt distance. He averaged 51.19 yard per punt. Not only is that a NCAA Record, but it would put him second all time in the NFL. On top of that, he set record for Most Punts of 50 yards (39), and punts of 60 yards (18). He also hit 4 70 yard punts, and 2 80 yarders. He predictably won the Ray Guy Award for Best Punter in the Nation. Araiza was also the second ever San Diego State Player to be a unanimous All-American.
He hit multiple 80 yard punts a week apart. Meanwhile in the NFL, there have been 2 80 yard punts in 10 years. One guy matched what every single NFL punter did in a decade, and it only took him 7 days. The first was an 86 yarder vs San Jose State. The second was vs Airforce. It was that second one that turned heads. Even Araiza himself was shocked by it.
“When I looked up at that ball, it was crazy. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a ball travel like that before.”- Matt Araiza
80-yard punts by all NFL punters combined since 2014: 1— Rodger Sherman (@rodger) October 29, 2021
80-yard punts by SDSU's Matt Araiza this month: 2
He will break NCAA records in:
—punt average (he'd break the NFL record too)
Meet Punt God:https://t.co/kZzvdYlRd3pic.twitter.com/ED5OyqZ83k
Changing The Perception of Punters
And all this success is changing how people view punters. Often times punters are seen as secondary. But with Araiza. He was the star attraction. People actually tuned in to watch him punt. His punting, was a national phenom. ESPN dubbed him College Football’s “must see attraction.” The Ringer called him “The Punter that was Promised.” FiveThirtyEight wrote that ““The Nation’s Best Punter is Changing the Game.” A Punter was getting National Coverage on par with what Heisman caliber QBs get. He took the nation by storm. And for him, it was important that he change the way punters are perceived.
“The thing I didn’t like at first was the stigma about (special teams). I felt like I kind of lost my identity as a player. To hear people say that (he is the team MVP) is incredible, because it’s not like we’re a four-win team and saying your punter might be your best player. I hope it inspires other kickers and punters that we can be as important as anyone on the team”- Matt Araiza to the San Diego Union-Tribune
Araiza continued to draw eyeballs at the NFL Combine. He kicked on from the 20, that came to a rest at the 1.
Everything he does at this point becomes a story. Even his 40 time turned into a story. How many punters run a 4.7 in the 40 yard Dash? I don’t know how it matters that a Punter is fast, but it is impressive none the less. Araiza has made punting cool.
He was destined to be a great punter before he even knew he would be. As a kid his brother took him out to kick the ball around. His brother came back home convinced Matt would be an NFL Kicker. Though at the time Matt had his eyes set on playing Soccer ion Europe. He played striker for his high school team, and was pretty decent. Then he tried out track.
But it was when he tried out for the Football team that he found his calling. Araiza didn’t seek out to be a Punter or Kicker, but being one was the best way to make the team, and he wanted to play Football. He went on to break records for Field Goals in his county. But it wasn’t field goals that turned him into a star. It was Punts. And when you can boom 80 yard bombs like he does, it makes sense.
Area The Punt God can Improve
Even gods aren’t perfect. While Araiza has the leg, he sometimes gets carried away with it. He had 15 touchbacks. And while that is something you will take as a trade off for how he flips the field from the 20 to the other 20, on pooch punts he could improve. 31.3% of his punts from the 50 or closer turned into touchbacks. Granted the new trend is to just go for it instead of taking those short punts. But still, it would be better if in those situations he learned to take a little off the canon.
Also while he was a field goal kicker in College, its unlikely he can be one in the NFL. Ironically on long field goals he struggled. Not with the distance, but with accuracy. He was 6-15 on field goals over 40 yards. If you need him to hit an extra pointer in a pinch, he can do that as a reserve kicker. But he will probably just be punting in the NFL.
What Draft Experts Say
“Nicknamed “Punt God,” Araiza possesses elite power and field-flipping ability that could make him the highest-drafted punter since Todd Sauerbrun went 56th overall in 1995. Punts explode off his instep at a low launch angle with tremendous velocity and force. He has less regard for hang-time and coverage considerations than NFL special teams coaches will so he may be asked to dial back the long-ball mentality and dial in with more control from all field positions. Araiza has rare power and should continue to fine-tune his craft with more coaching and experience. If he learns to kick with more consistent control, the sky’s the limit.”
Araiza is going to be a very good NFL Punter. There is no reason to fear about him transitioning to the NFL, because he will just do what he did in College. The only question is what do you want to spend on a punter. There is some talk he can even go on Day 2. Eagles need a punter, and taking him will give them, a great punter for at least 4 years. Is that worth it? Should the Eagles draft the Punt God? There is no clear answer to that. But whoever gets him, is going to be treated to quite a show whenever he punts.