Should the Bucs be criticized for drafting Aguayo?

by Gary Shelton on May 2, 2016 · 5 comments

in general, NFL, Tampa Bay Bucs

Monday, 6 a.m.

I am confused. I am baffled. I am gobsmacked.

The Tampa Bay Bucs, who have spent a good deal of their history blowing draft picks, have added an undeniable weapon. They have added a half-dozen points a game. They have every right to expect that they had drafted the finest kicker in their history.

And they are getting destroyed for it.

You would think that the Bucs have redrafted Ryan Leaf and JaMarcus Russell and Ki-Jana Carter. You would think they have returned to the days of knuckle-dragging. You would think they spend their days picking fleas off of each other in front of a giant poster of a disapproving Mel Kiper.

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It is the universal nature  of the criticism that gets me. Critics seem as if they're in a competition to call the Bucs stupider than the next guy. Sure, everyone criticizes the draft; it's one of the main events in the world that the guy on his couch can criticize full-time scouts, because the best of those scouts miss very often. But this loud? This vicious?

Why, the team drafted what is potentially a Pro Bowl kicker.

What morons!

The Bucs are being made fun of from coast to coast, as if it is the typists who are the experts, not the scouts who work 24/7, not the general manager who saw an answer and went after it. There is no debate to it. No one is wondering “Gee, given the fact that the Bucs loved Aguayo, given the fact they need a kicker, is the fact they moved up worth a discussion?” No. It's black-and-white. The Bucs are imbeciles, even if Aguayo is sensational.

Okay, okay. I'll admit this. I liked the pick. I liked it so much I was surprised there was any dissent at all. The volume of disagreement, the unanimous nature of it, stunned me. The Bucs could have taken a linebacker with a wrecked knee or a tackle wearing a gas mask, and the reviews would have been kinder. The Bucs weren't criticized this badly for taking a defensive end who was kicked out of an entire conference for drug use.

Look, it isn't just that the Bucs are being criticized for a draft pick. Heck, we've all done that. Dexter Jackson. Eric Curry. Keith McCants. And so on. I've hated a lot of the team's picks over the years. Probably more than most.

But not this pick.

This pick, to me, made sense. Sue me.

Aguayo is very good. No one doubts that.  The Bucs need points. No one doubts that. And so general manager Jason Licht was determined not to let him go elsewhere.

Do you know the criticism that got to me? USA Today ran an article making great sport of the pick. On the same site, it ran an article suggesting which seven second-rounders would make the Pro Bowl. Yep, Aguayo was one of them. Put it this way: If he makes the Pro Bowl, the Bucs were right. It's that simple.

There was more criticism. Bleacher Report quoted a nameless general manager as this was "the dumbest pick in the history of the draft," which strikes me as the dumbest statement in the history of the draft.

Heck, the Bucs themselves have made 20 worse draft picks than Aguayo. Think about the draft. It's an event where someone once thought that Ryan Leaf and JaMarcus Russell and Akili Smith and David Klinger and David Carr and Ki-Jana Carter and Aundray Bruce and Vernon Gholston and Lawrence Phillips and dozens of other were all simply great ideas. So drafting a kicker a little high instead of risking the loss of Aguayo is the dumbest move ever? That's just silly.

Good general managers, the ones who have names, have all been burned. And they all know better than to speak such absurdities.

Here's the question: How many Pro Bowls does Aguayo have to make before the price was right?

Hey, I know your concerns, but the Bucs really didn't move up that far from their third-round pick to the second round. I'm sure if they would have gone from the bottom of the third round to the top, no one would have said much.

But the Bucs crossed that barrier from one round to another, and so they get panned for it. I heard one radio host say the Bucs should have taken Aguayo “with their third round pick or their fourth.” Yeah, great idea there. Except that the Bucs were convinced he wasn't going to be there. It's like drafting Jalen Ramsey in the second round. Great idea, but he wasn't there. The Bucs were betting that Aguayo wouldn't have been either.

Look, none of us know for sure, but can you guarantee that Aguayo would have been there in the third round? No, you can't. You're being foolish to pretend otherwise.

Then there is this: Has any of the critics mentioned who the Bucs should have drafted if they had stayed put? The players who actually went in those spots were cornerbacks KeiVarae Russell and Eric Murray. Would you trade those guys for Aguayo? Who else was on the board that would have had as big an impact on Sunday? Anyone?

Yeah, yeah. Most kickers don't go as high as Aguayo. But most kickers aren't as good as Aguayo, either. Who would you want? Brian Price? Sabby Piscatelli? Booker Reese? Dexter Jackson? The Bucs have missed a lot in the second round. Most NFL teams have. Players make the roster because of their draft position, but a good many of them are just taking up space until the team gets around to cutting them..

Still, no one seems to talk Aguayo's ability. Just his price. To me, if the Bucs are right about Aguayo's talent, he's going to be worth the price.

It seems silly to me that a “draft analyst'' cites a rule that says you simply don't take a kicker no matter how good he is. Put it this way: The Bucs' grades would have been considerably higher, and the reviews considerably kinder, if the Bucs had drafted a tub of goo and called him a linebacker instead of daring to sign (gasp) a kicker.

So how is this a bust? It's a bust if Aguayo doesn't make the team. It's a bust if he's lousy once he does. It's a bust if he becomes one of those kicking nomads who wears a half-dozen uniforms. It's a bust if he doesn't become elite.

How is it worth it? It's worth it if Aguayo wins several games a year. It's worth it if he makes the Pro Bowl. It's worth it if his accuracy makes the Bucs forget all about kicking through his second contract, maybe his third. It is worth it if he is elite.

Look, kicking was not kind to the Bucs last year. The Bucs were 30th in the NFL in field goal accuracy. So it was kind of a need.

Let's review: The Bucs kicked a kicker who everyone agrees will be proficient. They drafted a kicker that the general manager didn't want to let get away. Jason Licht has risked his career here. He's put in hours of work. In a league of close games (the Bucs played 10 within 10 points last year), Aguayo has a chance to be a difference maker.

Me? I may well be wrong, but I like the pick.

I must be nuts, too.

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Cecil DeBald May 2, 2016 at 6:04 pm

I kind of expected the first two picks, they had been talked about, and was waiting for the Bucs to do something unexpected and exciting – and this was it! I was delighted, thinking 16 years of Janikowski, what a move! And I was dumbfounded by the criticism.

Cecil

Reply

Gary Shelton May 2, 2016 at 10:27 pm

I looked at the guys who went around the third and fourth round. Nobodies. The Bucs are far better off with Aguayo.

Reply

Jim Willson May 2, 2016 at 1:52 pm

I am with you on this pick Gary.

Reply

Rick Martin May 2, 2016 at 6:20 am

Very strong defense of Lictht’s selection. I’m in your court on this one.

Reply

Gary Shelton May 2, 2016 at 9:33 am

I’m not trying to defend Licht. If you want to rip him over another selection, fine. I just think Aguayo made sense.

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