"Did the Tampa Bay Buccaneers just trade up in the draft to leap frog the New England Patriots in order to select a kicker?," I questioned after the 2nd round of the 2016 NFL Draft. The Bucs moved up to draft Florida State kicker Roberto Aguayo in the 2nd round and I couldn't believe it.
Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht spoke with PewterReport.com (PR) to explain his selection process.
"Not a lot of people will ever admit that a kicker is worth a first-round pick," Licht said to PR. "I'm going to be jumping for joy when a few of the people in your business [the media] realize that some are."
The Buccaneers had a first round grade on Aguayo, which is how they justified moving into the second round to take the kicker. The situation becomes even greater when you realize that Patriots head coach Bill Belichick is the reason why Licht will "admit that a kicker is worth a first-round pick."
"In New England, Bill Belichick made us scouts list our roster from 1-53 and we had eight practice squad guys and we had some guys on I.R., but he wanted us to rank our guys from first to last," Licht told PR. "None of us had the kicker, Stephen Gostkowski, in our top 10 - even though he was an excellent kicker. After we were done, Bill said, ‘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. He said, ‘You tell me 10 other players that are more important than him!'
"It was an eye-opening moment for me. I had been around Adam Vinatieri and Gostkowski and those are two of the best. I know how good of a feeling that is to have a guy like that when you know that a lot of the games are going to come down to field goals - a lot of the games come down to the kicker."
This raises a few eyebrows because this means that Belichick would rank Gostkowski as one of the ten most important players on the Patriots- back at some point between 2009 and 2011 when Licht served as the Patriots director of pro personnel.
And when you look at how the Patriots have built their roster for 2016, Gostkowski has the 8th highest annual contract value on the team, ahead of wide receiver Julian Edelman and right tackle Sebastian Vollmer.
The Patriots top ten are quarterback Tom Brady, left tackle Nate Solder, free safety Devin McCourty, tight end Rob Gronkowski, edge defender Jabaal Sheard, tight end Martellus Bennett, swing tackle Marcus Cannon, Gostkowski, Edelman, and Vollmer.
The Buccaneers did their research on Aguayo and noticed that he was 100% over the past two seasons on all kicks from NFL regulation widths (hashmarks from where kickers aim are wider in college than in the NFL). Aguayo will have a lot of pressure to succeed in the NFL.
PR closes with this final thought, which is unclear whether it's a sentiment from Licht or analysis from the author, but remains worth sharing:
"In hindsight, ask Belichick to re-draft all of his picks in 2006 and Gostkowski would have been drafted higher than running back Laurence Maroney, who was New England's first-round pick that year, or any of New England's picks that year.
"Ask Belichick if Gostkowski is worth a first-round pick and he would answer with a resounding, 'Well, of course!'"
Just food for thought.