Early on Friday afternoon, I found myself talking with my good buddy and owner of 3 Headlines Barber Shops in the Tampa area, Christian Perez. Like me, Christian is a lifelong fan of the Buccaneers. The conversation consisted of who might the Bucs target to pair with 1st round pick Vernon Hargreaves, and ended with me being convinced and convincing Christian that kicker Roberto Aguayo would be a prime Bucs' target that night.
Later Friday afternoon, I made an appearance on Drew Garabo Live heard on 102.5 The Bone in Tampa. On Drew's show, I not only said that Noah Spence would be the Bucs primary target in the 2nd round, but to also not be surprised if the Buccaneers selected a kicker as well.
As the Bucs made their trade back into the late 2nd round on Friday night, I was on the phone with my dad. He was throwing out names like Jonathan Bullard or Vonn Bell, but I said it would be the kicker, Roberto Aguayo.
Now that the draft has concluded, the question from many is whether I like the Bucs draft, and if I agree with "the pick?"
I tend to have pretty strong opinions on a lot of various topics, but I find myself struggling with this question. On one hand, I believe the media has conditioned our brains to think kickers don't matter and that the selection of a kicker in anything higher than the 5th round is a wasted pick. Of course, that's the narrow-minded archaic thought process out-dated by teams years ago.
In a league now driven by scoring and playing with kicker rules now more than ever, why wouldn't a team place a high priority on a kicker they feel can change, and win, games?
If the Bucs and Jason Licht feel that Roberto Aguayo is one of the best kickers to ever enter the NFL from college, why risk missing out on such a talent? They did what they had to do by trading the extra 4th round selection they received from the Bears to move up 15 slots and ensure one of their top targets. As a matter of fact, I firmly believe that the only reason Jason Licht traded down in the first round and risked not getting Hargreaves was because he knew he'd end up using that extra 4th round pick to get in position to ensure Roberto Aguayo was kicking for his team.
Star kickers can change the game in a number of ways.
1. Field goal percentage and making field goals is obviously the most important advantage. Whether it's Roberto Aguayo, Connor Barth. Kyle Brindza, or any other kicker, you have to make field goals no matter when they occur in a game. Missed field goals in the 2nd or 3rd quarter can hurt just as bad as missed field goals in the 4th quarter. If Brindza knew how to make field goals in the 2nd and 3rd quarters of games, we may still be talking about him instead of Aguayo. I think the day Brindza was released, Licht set his eyes on the Lou Groza award winner still kicking at Florida State.
2. The clutch factor is also an important factor a top kicker can bring to a team. Yes, those 2nd and 3rd quarter field goals are vital, but nailing game-tying and game-winning field goals in the 4th quarter are the things great teams with great kickers do, and the poor teams fail at. We all know that Jason Licht has been around clutch kickers like Adam Vinatieri and Stephen Gostkowski in New England, and David Akers in Philadelphia. Those teams were playoff caliber teams year after year, and they had the clutch kickers to be the difference between close losses and close wins.
3. What about kickoffs? Well, Aguayo is pretty strong there too. This isn't about blasting it through the endzone anymore. There is significant strategy that needs to be used with the new rule placing touchbacks at the 25 yard line. One thing I love most about Aguayo is that when the ball explodes off his foot, and it does unlike any other kicker I've seen in person before, the ball immediately gets elevation. This elevation is excellent on field goals to avoid the rush, but it will also be very important with kickoffs this year. Outstanding hangtime and an innate ability to place the kickoff near the goal line could lead to poor position for opposing offenses in 2016.
When you take these factors and combine them into one word, the word you get is "momentum." The game of football, perhaps more than any other sport, revolves around momentum. When it rains, it pours, and anyone that's played the game of football and experienced this momentum within the course of a game knows how important it is. Like it or not, there might not be a position that can keep or extinguish momentum as much as a kicker can. A missed field goal at any point in a game can take the momentum that team has mustered up and tossed it right to the opposition. A made field goal keeps the status quo and any momentum that team has built on their side. The one thing kickers can rarely do is create momentum on their own for their own team, but the earlier examples are just as important.
Aguayo now joins a solid group of 3 kickers to to be drafted within the first two rounds of a draft since 1990. Jason Hanson, Mike Nugent, and Sebastian Janikowski were all taken early in their respective drafts, and all played or are still playing 10+ seasons in the NFL. Perhaps a kicker drafted early in a draft is more of a sure thing than any other position.
Most will ignore the logic above and simply run with their true feelings deep inside. Do you love the Aguayo pick or do you hate it? Likely, you're on one side or the other, and because of that, I have serious concern that Aguayo will be given a legit shot to succeed. This will have little to do with how he performs on the field and much more to do with each of you having your pride getting in the way. On a made field goal, the ones that loved the Aguayo pick will puff their chests out, and vice versa for the ones who hated the pick when he misses a kick. Bucs fans will be more focused on whether or not their immediate reaction was right rather than hope their team reaps the benefits of hopefully drafting the star kicker their GM believes he is.
Yes, Roberto Aguayo is a special talent. Anyone that has seen him perform in person knows that. I just hope fans can forget about their idiotic pride and rally around a common goal of hoping every player succeeds. If not, it will be unfortunate if Aguayo's new home fans put more pressure on him than he's ever received kicking football in football stadiums.
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