ORCHARD PARK - Buffalo Bills general manager Brandon Beane hinted on Friday night that drafting a punter was not out of the realm of possibility, and true to his word, he picked one in the sixth round Saturday afternoon.
Not only did he pick one, he picked The One, the man known as the “Punt God” though Matt Araiza admitted he’s not exactly enamored with that moniker.
“To be honest, I don’t necessarily love the nickname,” the San Diego State standout said. “I understand it’s a huge compliment but I think it’s a little too much. But it’s been a really fun season with the media and I kind of see that continuing with Bills Mafia kind of pouring into my (social media) now.”
Araiza started becoming a media star during 2021, his only season as the Aztecs full-time punter. Once he started booming 80-yard punts - of which there were two - people began to take notice and that’s when the nickname was born.
Interestingly, NFL teams didn’t buy into the hype quite as much as everyone else because Araiza - the winner of the Ray Guy Award symbolic of the nation’s best punter - was actually the third one drafted.
Penn State’s Jordan Stout went to the Ravens at No. 130 in the fourth round, the pick Buffalo had traded to Baltimore in order to move up in the first round to pick cornerback Kaiir Elam.
And then Tampa Bay took Georgia’s Jake Camarda at No. 133. Araiza lasted until pick No. 180, the first in the sixth round.
He admitted, “I’ll have a lot of motivation to dominate this season.”
Of course, first he has to beat out incumbent Bills punter Matt Haack, though as long as he proves he can be a reliable holder on placekicks, that will likely happen.
Haack struggled through an inconsistent first season in Buffalo and both Beane and coach Sean McDermott made mention of that after the season. Haack was flawless as holder for Tyler Bass, and that’s a job Araiza did not do at San Diego State.
He said knowing that all NFL teams use their punters as holders because it makes practice team more efficient, he has been working on learning the craft.
Araiza was San Diego State’s placekicker for three years and the 6-foot-2, 200-pounder made 73.5% of his field goal attempts and also made 96 of 97 extra points.
He became the punter last year and he averaged an NCAA record 51.2 yards gross on 79 punts. Of those, he had 17 punts of 60-plus, two that went more than 80 yards, and he had 37 downed inside the 20.
In addition to the Ray Guy Award, Araiza was a first-team Associated Press All-American as well as the Mountain West Conference Special Teams Player of the Year.
One thing to watch, though, is hang time. He was more of a distance punter and he forced only 17 fair catches, while 15 of his punts went into the end zone for touchbacks.
Both of those numbers are high and need to be refined and he admitted he’s been working on those skills during the draft process.
Sal Maiorana can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @salmaiorana.
This article originally appeared on Rochester Democrat and Chronicle: Punt God Matt Araiza picked by Buffalo Bills in 6th round of NFL Draft