When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers traded up in the second round to land kicker Roberto Aguayo out of Florida State, the move was met with widespread amusement, if not downright knee-slapping laughter. After all, kickers are usually late-round picks, if not undrafted free agents.
It’s a good thing, then, that the Bucs didn’t draft him in Round 1, which is the value they attributed to him heading into the draft.
Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht revealed this in an outstanding interview with Scott Reynolds of Pewter Report:
“Not a lot of people will ever admit that a kicker is worth a first-round pick,” Licht said. “I’m going to be jumping for joy when a few of the people in your business (the media) realize that some are.”
Licht credits his time with Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots for teaching him the value of valuing kickers. After having all his scouts (Licht was one of them) list their top-10 prospects, Belichick lit into them for not including kicker Stephen Gostkowski, whom the Pats selected in Round 4 of the 2006 NFL Draft.
“‘Nobody wants to put Gostkowski in our top 10? Why, just because he’s a kicker?’ Bill made us ‘rethink that’ and he got his point across,” Licht related. “He said, ‘You tell me 10 other players that are more important than him!’”
In addition to the fact that Aguayo was excellent in college, he was perfect between NFL hash marks and never missed a single field goal 39 yards or shorter, including extra points. Additionally, the coaches at Florida State impressed upon Licht and his scouts that Aguayo was a rare leader and locker room stalwart.
So just how high did Licht and the Buccaneers have Aguayo rated?
“We had Aguayo ranked high – pretty high,” Licht said. “We moved up into the second round to get him, so that should tell you something about where we had him ranked.”
Time will tell if the selection of Aguayo in Round 2 will prove an amusing anecdote or a stunning revelation. At the least, we can appreciate Licht and the Bucs for sticking to their principles and taking what’s been seen as a risk on a guy they really believe in.