Much has been made of the Roberto Aguayo pick, and whether or not the Bucs made the right decision in drafting him in the second round. We're not going to answer that question here, we're just going to look at one point of criticism: his purported inconsistent accuracy past 40+ yards, and the implications it has for his NFL accuracy at that distance. He was perfect inside 40 yards and was perfect on PATs, so this is the only point where you could critique his accuracy.
Aguayo hit 23 of 32 40+-yard field goals, or 72% of his attempts. That's not a great number in the NFL: among the 35 kickers who attempted at least 25 40+-yard field goals in the past five seasons, that'd rank 27th, well below average. But we're talking about pretty marginal differences here: if two of those misses float in, he's suddenly ninth. It doesn't take much for that to happen. So that's the first thing to keep in mind: on 32 field goals, randomness will happen, so even this data doesn't say a lot about his long-term accuracy.
But there's also a difference between college accuracy and NFL accuracy: the circumstances are different, the hashmarks are wider in college, they're not working with NFL coaches, the protection and rush are different. So my question is: to what extent does 40+-yard accuracy in college even predict NFL accuracy in the same distance?
Before we get into that, it should be noted that the Teamrankings dataset I used isn't perfect. Caleb Sturgis' 2010 season was missing some data unrelated to his injury, so I excluded it. There may be issues elsewhere. But from what I could tell, most if it was accurate, including Roberto Aguayo's 23 for 32 mark in college. It's also the only dataset I could find that went back far enough to give me college data on a significant number of NFL kickers, and that split the field goals by distance.
On that point: I only looked at NFL kickers who attempted at least 25 field goal attempts between 40 and 60 yards the past five years, and who showed up in the Teamrankings dataset. That excludes anyone who left college before 2007, and a few modern kickers like Dan Carpenter. That made this manageable, but it does mean there's a bit of a selection bias in the data: these are all kickers who have succeeded at the NFL level. The outright failures don't even show up -- which may mean the dataset is actually more applicable to Roberto Aguayo, assuming NFL scouting departments are worth anything at all. Anyway, to the data!
So what does that chart tell me? Not all that much, to be honest. There's some correlation between long-distance field goal accuracy in college and the NFL, but it's weak and the data points are all over the map. Dan Bailey is the most accurate long-distance kicker in the NFL, but managed just 70% in college. Caleb Sturgis is the worst NFL kicker in this dataset, but was one of the best in college at 79%. Mason Crosby was terrible in college and the NFL, while Steven Hauschka, Connor Barth and Kai Forbath were outstanding in both. Blair Walsh was horrible in college and good in the NFL.
I wanted to see if splitting these results up by 40-49- and 50+-yard field goals made a significant difference, but it didn't seem to have any real effect for the college kickers. Quite frankly, there's just too much variance and too small a sample size to say something significant when we drill down that deeply -- only two of these players had more than 10 50+yard attempts in college.
But the bottom line is this: Aguayo's nine 40+-yard misses really don't tell us anything. There's no strong correlation between college misses and NFL misses, and he could easily turn out to be just as accurate as Dan Bailey, or just as bad as Caleb Sturgis. One thing worth noting: the top four kickers in this dataset all went undrafted, and one of them was just replaced by Aguayo.