After the Buccaneers surprised everyone by taking a kicker with the 59th overall pick in the draft, G.M. Jason Licht explained the move by heaping superlatives on the player.
“I was very excited along with my staff and coaches about Roberto for a very long time,” Licht told PFT Live in May 2016. “It’s not often that you go into draft meetings or into a school visit and you come back and in fact I remember coming back. I made a visit to Florida State along with several other schools this year, like we always do, but came back and my wife she always asks, ‘Who did you like?’ And I said, ‘I like this Aguayo guy.’ And she was shocked. Because I had never talked about a kicker before. . . .
“He’s the best kicker I’ve ever seen coming out of college. . . . With the importance of special teams in this league is paramount and we talk about that all the time. So why not take who you think is the best kicker you’ve ever seen just to sure that up?”
Here’s why not. Because doing the unconventional thing and failing is the clearest path to widespread scrutiny.
Yes, it’s good that the Bucs admitted their mistake. But it was a pretty big mistake, perhaps exacerbated by the over-the-top faith that the team put in Aguayo, both by making him a second-round pick and then declaring to the world how great he had been, and in turn how great he would be.
Much was made of the fact that Aguayo had never missed a kick inside of 40 yards. Maybe too much, because something got inside Aguayo’s head, keeping him from replicating what he did in college.
“There’s going to be critics everywhere, you know?” Aguayo told PFT Live in the days after he was drafted, regarding those questioning his status as a top-60 pick. “I think the Buccaneers and the coaching staff here made the right decision. I think you’re just going have to wait until the season gets here. I mean kickers, I think, they score points so they’re an offensive weapon and as we can see with the extra point moving back to 33 yards you know it’s gonna change the game. I think in the future that there’s going to be a lot more draft picks used on good kickers, and I think the kickers are gonna change the game.”
Aguayo’s experience could mean that fewer draft picks will be used on good kickers, because adding that extra potential for criticism could be the thing that causes a player who typically establishes himself in anonymity to never really find his groove, especially in light of the far more intense coverage and scrutiny in the 17 years since Sebastian Janikowski arrived in Oakland as a first-round pick.