Usually when a team drafts a player in the second round, they can afford to be patient with him. He can play a role as a backup, take some reps as a special-teamer while he learns the ins and outs of the playbook.
But with a kicker, it’s not so easy.
A lot has been written in a short time about Tampa Bay Buccaneers kicker Roberto Aguayo, the former Florida State standout the Bucs took in the second round this year – the highest a team has drafted a kicker in over a decade (New York Jets, Mike Nugent, 2005).
Aguayo is struggling. Really struggling.
The 22-year-old missed his first kick in the preseason, an extra point. Then he missed two field goals last week against Jacksonville, one from 32 yards and the other from 49.
And now this, from Tampa Bay’s joint practice with the Cleveland Browns on Tuesday:
— Pat Donovan (@PatDonovanNFL) August 23, 2016
— Rick Stroud (@NFLSTROUD) August 23, 2016
Bucs coach Dirk Koetter told reporters after practice that Aguayo’s problem is mental; to that end, Aguayo has already consulted a “mental coach” to help him work through things and bolster his confidence.
He may need an extra session after Tuesday: not only was Aguayo bad, but fans were heckling him. According to JoeBucsFan.com, he was booed, heard the FSU war chant, and heard a lone “You can do it!” a la “The Waterboy.”
Aguayo was an All-American in 2014 with the Seminoles, and never missed an extra point in his three years with the team. He also converted 69 of 78 career field goals in college, though he missed more kicks last fall (five) than he did over his first two seasons combined (four).
It’s not unheard of for rookie kickers to struggle: Adam Vinatieri, who will receive serious consideration for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, was perfect in his first game with the New England Patriots in 1996, but then followed that up by missing 5 of 12 field goals and 2 of 6 extra points over the next three games. A decade later, also with the Patriots, Stephen Gostkowski was just 2-for-5 on field goals over the second, third and fourth games of his career.
Although the Bucs used a high pick on Aguayo, the team didn’t bring in a second kicker for training camp this year to push the rookie and at least give the illusion that it wasn’t automatic he’d get the job. Now with Aguayo struggling, if they bring someone in they risk making things worse for Aguayo mentally. If Tampa Bay cut him, another team would surely scoop him up, and teams have a tough enough time composing a 53-man roster without having to keep two kickers.
It’s a tough spot general manager Jason Licht finds himself in.