Buccaneers General Manager Jason Licht has essentially admitted he screwed up when he traded up in the second round of last year’s draft to select kicker Roberto Aguayo. But while it’s admirable that Licht is trying to correct his mistake by signing veteran kicker Nick Folk to compete with Aguayo, the question remains: Why did the Bucs draft Aguayo in the first place?
The common refrain you’ll get when you ask that question is that Aguayo was a great kicker at Florida State. The problem is he wasn’t.
Aguayo got a lot of attention because he was a kicker for one of the best teams in the country, and he was very accurate: He never missed an extra point in his college career, and he’s third in college football history in field goal accuracy. Aguayo’s supporters like to point out he never missed a kick inside 40 yards.
But that doesn’t make a kicker great because making a lot of short kicks isn’t what greatness is about. A great kicker is one who can consistently make kicks from longer distances, and on that score, Aguayo failed. In three years at Florida State, he made just five field goals of 50 yards or longer, the longest of which was 53 yards. That’s really nothing special; Arizona State’s Zane Gonzalez, regarded by many as the best kicker in this year’s draft class, made seven field goals of 50 yards or longer in 2016 alone, the longest of which was 59 yards. No one is expecting Gonzalez to go in the first two rounds of this year’s draft.
And even from 40 to 49 yards, Aguayo wasn’t special. In his final season at Florida State he was just 4-for-8 on kicks of 40 to 49 yards. NFL kickers make field goals in the 40-49 range about 80 percent of the time. What were the Buccaneers thinking trading up to draft a kicker who was 30 percentage points below the NFL average from that range?
Aguayo wasn’t great on kickoffs in 2015, either. His miscues included a short kick that set up the game-sealing touchdown in Florida State’s Peach Bowl loss to Houston, and four kickoffs out of bounds.
Although Aguayo was an All-American in 2013 and 2014, no one who paid attention to college football in 2015 thought Aguayo was the best kicker in the country. On the Associated Press All-America team in 2015, Aguayo didn’t make either the first team, the second team or the third team.
Criticizing the Buccaneers for drafting Aguayo isn’t second-guessing. I tweeted during last year’s draft that Aguayo wasn’t a great kicker and the Buccaneers shouldn’t have drafted him. I was far from alone; the vast majority of draft analysts ripped the Bucs for the pick.
At least Licht has brought in a competent veteran to compete with Aguayo this year. As Licht said, refusing to admit a mistake on a draft pick would be “the bigger mistake.” He’s right about that. Even if it’s still hard to comprehend how he could have made the mistake to draft Aguayo in the first place.