You hear it all the time in May during the draft:”He’s a perfect guy to get on your roster and he’ll start for you week One. There will be a learning curve like every other position, but he’ll get it.” Apparently the “every other position does NOT include Kicker. Because Roberto Aguayo had more than a learning curve. He had a learning obtuse angle. Roberto Aguayo must wonder; why is every non-kicker position expected to make mistakes as a rookie?
Aguayo missed his very first kick as a Pro Kicker in the Bucs first pre-season game of 2016. Then at the very first practice after that game, he missed his first kick there too. He was Boo’ed by the crowd. Then he made all 4 extra points and his first FG try, and sighs were heard across Tampa Bay.
Until he missed his FG vs the Cardinals in week two, hardly the reason for the 40-7 loss administered in that game. Then he cost the Bucs games; he missed a FG and an extra point in a 32-37 loss to the Rams which changed the complexion of the Bucs final drive that they ended in Ram FG range. But the biggest scare came in Carolina when the Bucs were totally outplaying the Panthers in Charlotte, and Aguayo missed 2 FGs that were makeable in that game, making the other two. The Bucs were tied 14-14 and went in trying to break the draw at the scary end of the game.
All the pressure, all the national cameras on him, and thats where it happened. That was the moment where it switched on for Roberto.
Or rather BACK on.
Aguayo entered the draft as THE most accurate kicker in NCAA History where he made 88% of his kicks at Florida State. He was known as Mr. Perfect, so the Buccaneers traded a pick to get up into the second round of the NFL draft to secure the services of Aguayo. Unlike in the past, a kicker coming into the NFL today has a lot of disadvantages. These guys are coming into the NFL in the age of social media, where its not as easy to follow the “dont pay attention to what they say about you in the media” advice. Plus, in the past college kickers had to learn to adjust to the difference in hash marks in the NFL which are more narrow. Now in the NFL, extra points are 30 point Field Goals.
Aguayo no doubt felt the pressure when we he read blogs and fan posts complain about Bucs GM Jason Licht for trading an extra pick just to get INTO the 2nd round to draft the specialist. If he were a Quarterback or Running Back, or pretty much any other position, he would be afforded a year or two to adjust to his new role, and his mistakes would be forgiven.
Aguayo stepped up in Carolina and made the game winning kick, straight through the uprights; so straight when it came down it was eclipsed by the center post as it came to the ground. Aguayo was mugged…he was interviewed by ESPN cameras and staff live on the air. It had to feel like the old days, like being Mr. Perfect again.
Since that game, Aguayo has made 14 of 16 Field Goals after going 4 of 8 before. Roberto is 19 of 20 extra points since then too, for a total of 33 of 36 kicks for a 92% clip. On the year however, Aguayo is 72% on Field Goals which is good enough for dead last place. Sebastian Janikowski was 68% during his rookie year, yet he is considered one of the NFLs best kickers.
Whether Jason Licht’s drafting of Aguayo with a 2nd round pick was a good one will be determined down the road in time. The Bucs surely needed more talent on this years team, they weren’t ONE KICKER AWAY from being a good team. Or maybe they were..who knew? But with kickers failing at a record place, and games being decided by the slimmest of margins, Licht threw the dice that the NCAA’s most accurate kicker, can be not only Mr. Perfect, but Mr. Automatic too.