Where Bills P Matt Araiza needs to improve to become successful in the NFL

06/28/2022
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It is fair to say that few punters have risen to the levels of internet fame that Matt Araiza has in the last year, a fame that has been accrued before punting a single ball in the NFL.

The Mountain West product wowed social media thanks to his punts that seem to defy physics. His resume speaks for itself.

  • College record for average distance per punt.
  • Unanimous All-American
  • Multiple 80-yard+ punts (There was one in the entire NFL in 2021)

Despite the bombs, the numbers, and the awards, Araiza wasn’t the first, or even second, punter off the board in the 2022 NFL Draft. Don’t get me wrong, getting drafted as a punter is an impressive feat, but how does someone with the nickname “Punt God” become the third punter off the board? Some of the numbers may give us our answer.

Looking at the numbers

NFL punting is about more than kicking the ball as far as humanly possible. It requires the ability to create hang time, place teams inside the twenty-yard line consistently, and avoid touchbacks (also holding, but that is a different discussion). What do the good pros average in these areas? Of Pro Football Focus’ top-ten graded punters in the 2021 NFL season, the average hang time was 4.27 seconds (this and all future referenced stats courtesy of PFF). Of those 10, the highest number of touchbacks created was 10.

How does this compare to Araiza? In 2021, Araiza averaged a lowly 3.92 seconds of hang time, a number that would have been him 44th among NFL punters in 2021. Additionally, he placed 15 punts in the endzone for a touchback, the most in college football. However, a country-leading 41 of his punts landed inside the twenty-yard line. By comparison, Jordan Stout and Jake Camarda, the two punters drafted ahead of him, averaged 4.34 and 4.13 seconds of hang time and created three and six touchbacks each, respectively.

Why does this matter?

If you have read this far, you are probably asking, “what the heck is your problem, Ryan? Why are you hating on a rookie punter?” For the record, I am VERY excited to watch Araiza punt footballs, but like Josh Allen coming out of college, Araiza will need to learn to add nuance to his game. Playing in the Moutain West, Araiza didn’t have to worry about facing NFL-caliber returners.

That won’t be the case in the NFL. Outkicking your coverage or low-hangtime punts do not allow defenders to get downfield and can lead to disastrous results. When facing Utah in 2021, Araiza allowed 132 on six returns, including an 80-yard touchdown to talented return man Britain Covey. 

Araiza may have a leg unlike any the NFL has ever seen. Bills fans should be excited, but there are legitimate reasons why he wasn’t the first punter off the board in this year’s draft. Like Allen learning how to use his immense arm strength to make throws at all levels, Araiza will have to learn how to punt from all parts of the field, allowing his teammates to make plays, and put his defense in advantageous positions. 

 

Teacher by day and runner by day. Cover 1 Writer by night.

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