When I did my most recent mock draft, going all six rounds, I took punter Matt Araiza in Round 6 for the New York Giants. Let’s talk more about that. Should the Giants seriously consider selecting a punter with a Day 3 pick, most likely one of their three total selections in Rounds 5 and 6?
I would make the case that punter absolutely should be in play for the Giants in the latter stages of the draft.
The Giants lived through two years of inconsistency from Riley Dixon, and that should have taught everyone how valuable consistent, sometimes exceptional, punting can be. And how much it hurts when you don’t have it.
The Giants averaged 41.8 and 42.3 net yards per punt in 2018 and 2019, Dixon’s first two years with the Giants. The last two seasons they have averaged 38.8 and 39.5 net yards per punt, respectively.
Maybe that isn’t all on Dixon, but no matter how much emphasis is placed on coverage and how many quality special teamers are running down the field on punts, if the ball isn’t consistently high enough or placed well enough that isn’t going to matter. Dixon’s per punt averages of 44.8 and 44.4 yards the past two seasons were the lowest of his six-year NFL career.
A couple of yards of lost field position per punt doesn’t seem like much, but over six to eight punts per game that can be significant.
Jamie Gillan, nicknamed ‘The Scottish Hammer,’ was signed to a reserve/futures contract this offseason. Gillan has 44 games of NFL punting experience over three seasons with the Cleveland Browns. He was released by the Browns after 12 games last season, with his play seeming to indicate perhaps some lost confidence after a costly dropped punt snap in Week 1 of last season.
Gillan could probably give the Giants serviceable punting, which the Giants would take for a cap hit of just $1.065 million.
If the Giants have an opportunity to potentially do better, though, would they? Should they? Dane Brugler of The Athletic has three punters with draftable grades in his outstanding and widely-acclaimed annual draft guide. Let’s look at all three.
Matt Araiza, San Diego State
Brugler has a third-round grade on Araiza. Yes, a third-round grade. He does not, though, offer scouting reports on punters or placekickers.
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.
Here’s one more scouting report. This from Pro Football Network:
Let’s start with the obvious. Where most people have legs attached to their torso, Araiza has an actual cannon. Or so it seems. The left-legged punter can effortlessly boom the ball the entire length of the field. No other player this season has two 80+ yard punts. These aren’t just courtesy of a lucky bounce either; these punts are traveling through the air.
Araiza’s leg power is also demonstrated as a field goal and kickoff specialist. The San Diego State punter has a career-long 53-yard field goal to his name. Furthermore, it’s reported that Araiza routinely makes kicks from 50+ in practice.
The fact that Araiza can punt, take field goals, and act as the kickoff man for a team is a crucial element to his scouting report. Versatility is next to ability — or something of that nature. Araiza can take up one spot on a roster, rather than a team having to carry a player at both punter and placekicker.
This season Araiza hasn’t had a single kick — punt or field goal — blocked. That demonstrates a level of composure that will be invaluable at the next level. While college kickers take their share of criticism, the level of scrutiny and the ability to quickly lose your job in the NFL requires an exceptional level of equilibrium. Moreover, his lack of blocked kicks demonstrates that Araiza consistently gets good elevation.
Finally, Araiza has shown toughness and athletic ability during his time at San Diego State. In the rare occurrence that one of his kicks is returned, Araiza can be found taking down the returner. He’s not just the last line of defense, either. He can be seen putting his high school track athleticism to good use getting downfield.
On Day 3, you are looking for guys with specialized talents who have something that leads you to believe they can help your team, and last for a while in the NFL. Araiza would seem to hit those benchmarks.
Jordan Stout, Penn State
Stout is another player who has experience with kickoffs and the potential to be a long-distance placekicker. Brugler gives him a Round 5 grade.
Handled both kicking and punting duties but will be a full-time punter at the next level. Stout combines quality power with outstanding touch to flip fields and throw darts depending upon his positioning. He hangs the ball up to limit returns and rarely boots it into the end zone. He’s consistent and works with quick operation time. He has the makings of a steady, long-term NFL punter.
Jake Camarda, Georgia
Brugler has a Round 5 grade on Camarda, who punted for the Georgia Bulldogs for four seasons.
Highly decorated four-year punter with kickoff ability to boot. Camarda has NFL operation time and leg strength but was a little inconsistent hitting the football in 2021. He’s an accurate directional punter with touch but hasn’t learned to control nose-down punts, which has led to touchbacks after the bounce. He’s no lock for a spot but should be in contention to earn a job within the first two years.
Pro Football Network is a bit more generous:
Punting is more than just hammering the ball down the field. Utilizing your punter to flip field position requires accuracy and placement. In this regard, Camarda is comfortably the best in the 2022 NFL Draft class. He routinely pins the opposition behind the 20-yard line with his punts and has multiple punts downed within the 10-yard line. Camarda gets excellent hang time on his punts, allowing the punt unit to get downfield and make a play.
With his combination of efficient ball handling, clean striking, and elevation, Camarda has just one blocked punt in his college career. He’s rarely flustered by opposition pressure and has shown that he can perform in the biggest of games.
Those would likely be the three options should the Giants consider drafting a punter. Is that something you would be OK with new GM Joe Schoen doing?