Friday, April 8, 2022

2022 NFL Draft Spotlight: Matt Araiza

Height & Weight: 6'2" 200lbs
Position: Punter & Kicker
Hometown: San Diego, California

In 2021, Matt Araiza joined Marshall Faulk as the only unanimous first-team All-Americas in San Diego State history. Proving that the nickname "Punt God" was earned, not given, Araiza's unforgettable season featured a new FBS record in punt average (51.4), two punts over 80 yards, and the Ray Guy Award, given to the top college punter in the nation.

Before arriving at Montezuma Mesa, Araiza had already built an impressive resume on special teams that helped Rancho Bernardo to a combined 34-6 record and three straight league titles. During the Broncos' run to the 2015 State Championship, he nailed a San Diego Section-record 18 field goals. His prep career ended with two High School All-America selections and 37 total field goals made.

After redshirting his freshman year, Araiza took over as the Aztecs' primary kicker in 2019 and set a new school single-season record for most field goals (22). He also led the Aztecs in scoring (94 points) and was named to his first of two Mountain West honorable mentions. Araiza didn't record his first punt until his redshirt sophomore season in 2020.

It's unlikely for a special teams player, especially from a non-Power 5 program, to receive the type of national attention Araiza was deservedly showered with during his 2021 campaign. From going viral on social media to appearing on national sports broadcasts, Araiza's buzz grew even larger after a highly impressive showing at the NFL Combine. Not only was he booting punts near the goal line in front of scouts, but his 4.68-second 40-yard dash speed could make him a serious threat in 4th-and-short situations.

Since the 2007 draft, the earliest a punter has been taken was the third round. While NFL teams usually desire to select special teamers in the later rounds or as undrafted free agents, Araiza has shown the athleticism and versatility to be a steal for any franchise looking to create field position problems for their opponents.

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