Roberto Aguayo has tried not to buy into the speculation that he might be the first kicker in 11 years to be selected in the first three rounds of the NFL draft.
But with the draft less than two weeks away, everything is lining up well for the former Florida State kicker.
Because of rules changes the past two years and many considering Aguayo to be the most complete kicker to be in the draft in a while, it was no surprise that he became the first kicker since Sebastian Janikowski to forgo his senior year in college.
Janikowski, who also went to Florida State, was drafted in the first round (17th overall) by Oakland in 2000. Aguayo said he could see himself going in the second. The previous kicker to go that high was Mike Nugent, who was the 47th overall pick by the New York Jets in 2005.
“It would be an amazing thing to happen,” Aguayo said. “But I try not to think about it too much. The draft is such a confusing time because of everything that is out there.”
There has been a lot of hype throughout Aguayo’s career. As a freshman in 2013, he won the Lou Groza Award as the nation’s top kicker, setting an FBS record with 157 points as the Seminoles won the national championship.
As a sophomore, he was a first-team selection to The Associated Press All-America team for the second straight season. Had he stayed for his senior season, Aguayo would have likely set NCAA records for scoring.
With more of a premium on accuracy in the NFL after extra points were moved to the 23-yard line, Aguayo enters the draft as the most accurate kicker in NCAA history (96.73 percent).
He made all 198 extra-point attempts, was 69 of 78 on field goals and never missed a kick inside of 40 yards. Last season only five NFL teams made all of their PATs and six missed at least four.
“It just weeds out those kickers that aren’t really accurate. Anybody can really make a 20-yard field goal,” Aguayo said. “But moving it back, the percentage rate, making it from 33 yards, is 88 percent (including field goals). I think it helps me being 100 percent inside 40.”
Compared to his first two seasons, though, Aguayo struggled last year.
After missing only four field goals his first two years, Aguayo missed five last season. He was 5 of 10 from beyond 40 yards, including having a 56-yard attempt at Georgia Tech blocked that was returned for a touchdown.
Following that, he made 9 of 11 field goals, including 45- and 51-yarders in a win at Florida.
“It made me a better person and overall a better kicker, and I fought through that,” Aguayo said of the Georgia Tech game. “It was good because I had two years before that that were just a breeze, and fighting through that adversity, you need to get better sometimes.”
NFL scouts also had some concerns about kickoffs as Aguayo’s average distance of 62.77 yards ranked 30th nationally and touchback rate of 55.95 percent was 20th. He also had four kickoffs that went out of bounds before reaching the end zone.
Aguayo put most of those to rest during February’s scouting combine as he regularly boomed it out of the end zone. With the NFL moving touchbacks from 20 to the 25, Aguayo’s low touchback percentage might end up being a benefit.
Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher often told Aguayo to put the ball in a 4-yard radius from the opponent’s 2 to 2 yards deep in the end zone.
Florida State finished sixth nationally in kickoff coverage, allowing only 16.88 yards per return and none more than 40 yards.
“If it’s at the 20 I don’t mind kicking it out (for a touchback), but if they are going to give me those extra 5 yards as a play caller I know the difference that it means,” Fisher said.
While former teammate Jalen Ramsey has been busy visiting team complexes and answered questions about possibly being taken in the top five, Aguayo has had a couple of visits from teams and has continued to work out at Florida State.
Nugent, who is in his seventh season with the Cincinnati Bengals, said his road to the draft was similar as a couple of teams came to visit him in Columbus. Nugent battled injuries in his three-plus seasons with the Jets before being released and knows the pressure of being a high pick.
“Mentally I don’t think it affected me, but can’t help to hear what people say. Whether you are a first-round pick or a free agent it doesn’t matter lining up for the next field goal,” he said.
Since 2006, 20 kickers have been drafted but the highest has been the fourth round with Stephen Gostkowski (New England in 2006) and Alex Henery (Philadelphia in 2011). None were drafted last year.
Florida State could end up having four kickers in the NFL this upcoming season. Janikowski, Carolina’s Graham Gano and Washington’s Dustin Hopkins.
Of the four, Janikowski still has the more powerful leg but Aguayo is considered to be more complete. Gano didn’t handle placekicking duties at Florida State until his senior season (he was a punter his first two years) while Hopkins had some problems with technique before finding success with the Redskins.
Aguayo said he plans on watching the draft with family. No matter where he goes, he feels as if he has put everything out there the past four months.
“I might be a little anxious, but I’ve put the best version of myself out there,” he said. “I think I separated myself from the other guys. My body of work here and my consistency through the years just solidifies what I’m doing.”
Republished with permission of the Associated Press.