Buccaneers signed Nick Folk, another reminder that drafting a kicker early is always a mistake

Posted by    |    March 20th, 2017 at 7:15 am

One year after trading up into the second round for Roberto Aguayo, the Bucs are bringing in another kicker to compete with him.

Everyone who’s ever wedged the words “NFL Draft expert” into their Twitter bio knows that you don’t draft a kicker in the second round. But that didn’t stop the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from doing it.

Last year, the Bucs traded their third-round pick (No. 74) and fourth-round pick (No. 106) to the Chiefs so that they could move into the second round, 59th overall, to get Florida State kicker Roberto Aguayo.

Aguayo was the first kicker to declare early for the draft in 16 years, the first since Sebastian Janikowski, another FSU product. He had a very good reason to do it.

And for the Bucs, it only made sense that one of the best kickers in NCAA history would be very good in the NFL. History says kickers picked in the top 60 picks are very good … but there aren’t that many of them.

Even the draft experts had Aguayo pegged as a second- or third-round talent.

What could possibly go wrong? Everything!

Aguayo missed nine field goals, worst in the NFL. He only made four of 10 attempts between 40 and 49 yards. He even missed two extra points to rub salt in it all.

Now, he could end up getting replaced after just one year with the team. The Bucs signed veteran kicker Nick Folk in free agency last week. He’ll compete with Aguayo for the starting job during the offseason.

“Read the stats, he wasn’t very good last year,’’ Bucs general manager Jason Licht told the Tampa Bay Times. “He wants to improve and he’s going to work at it. And we still have confidence in him but you’re always trying to get better.”

The case for drafting so early Aguayo was pretty thin, but it wouldn’t have been much more than a draft time punchline if he’d lived up to the billing. Instead, his performance last season and the Bucs bringing in Folk to give them some insurance perfectly sums up why you shouldn’t draft a kicker so highly, especially one you surrender two mid-round picks to trade up for.

The difference between the best kicker and a replacement level kicker isn’t enough to warrant such a high selection. Teams replace kickers during the season all the time. Those draft picks are better spent on offensive linemen, defensive backs … any position other than kickers or punters.

It’s not a great year to get crazy and draft a kicker early. Arizona State’s Zane Gonzalez is thought of as the best kicker in this draft, and he’s got a fifth-round grade, at best. The fallout from Tampa Bay’s mistake probably means no team is going to be drafting a kicker very highly for awhile anyway.