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The massive impact of Roberto Aguayo's mortar kicks

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Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers got out front of everyone else in the trading up for kicker Roberto Aguayo in the second round, by giving up a third and a fourth round pick. There has to be a reason why. That is what I will be trying to attempt as I scoured the web for info and more info. (DisclosureI did not like the fact we traded up for a FG kicker.)

FG Efficiency

First and foremost, drafting Aguayo was not about FG efficiency. Here is work by Warren Sharp of the SharpFootballAnalysis.com blog:

We also must look at the replacement situation itself.  The Buccaneers current kicker is/was Connor Barth [Barth was cut Monday by the Bucs].  Let's examine Connor Barth vs Roberto Aguayo:

Extra Points (last 4 years)

§  Aguayo = 100%

§  Barth = 99%

Less than 40 yd FGs (last 2 years)

§  Aguayo = 100%

§  Barth = 100%

Less than 40 yd FGs (last 4 years)

§  Aguayo = 100%

§  Barth = 98%

40+ yard FGs (last 2 years)

§  Aguayo = 64%

§  Barth = 63%

40+ yard FGs (last 4 years)

§  Aguayo = 72%

§  Barth = 78%

There is absolutely nothing that screams out that Aguayo will be a night and day improvement over Barth.

Trade Value

Bucs - Chiefs Trade, 2016 (Trade up for Roberto Aguayo)
Meers Value
Bucs Receive Chiefs Receive
Year Round Pick Meers Value Round Pick Meers Value
2016 2 59 135.1 3 74 118.4
4 106 92.5
Total 135.1 210.9
Differential -75.8


That 75.8 point value represents an overpayment of the last pick in the fourth round, top pick in the fifth round, based on Kevin Meers' draft pick value chart. What is amiss is the "per jump draft slot" of 15 spots. So the average point value per jump spot was only 5 points on the Meers table.

Again, without another trade to compare this one to, we lack perspective. So let us review the trade up for starting guard, Ali Marpet.

Bucs - Colts Trade, 2015 (Trade up for Ali Marpet)
Meers Value
Bucs Receive Colts Receive
Year Round Pick Meers Value Round Pick Meers Value
2015 2 61 132.7 3 65 128
4 109 88.8
Total 132.7 216.8
Differential -84.1

To move up to grab Marpet, the Bucs spent more point value than they did to grab Aguayo.  Now let us look at the "per jump draft slot" value.  The Bucs only moved up four spots, that value per jump draft slot is 21 points per draft slot.

In conclusion with respect to trade value, the Bucs came up roses as the "per jump draft slot" value was only 5 points per draft slot!  Granted, the quality player in question is a different question from the trade value because Marpet plays every offensive down and Aguayo does not, but Aguayo can score points and Marpet, by himself, relies on others to score for him. Is there something else besides scoring points that Aguayo can do?

Mortar Pinning: Expected Points

Not only did the NFL change where the extra point location would be kicked recently, but this year a touchback will now be drawn out to the 25 yard line as opposed to the standard 20 yard line before this year. But what does this mean to us NFL fans besides the offense being closer to the fifty yard line, and, of course, the a touchdown? It equates to points. Specifically, expected point values.

Warren Sharp, the author I shared above who wrote that Aguayo was not worth trading up for with respect to FG Efficiency, did write up a wonderful piece on Mortar Kicking Can Win Games.

For Sharp's piece, he uses a baseline of five kick off attempts per game. Here are his two scenarios. His analysis concludes that mortar kicks would gain the Bucs up to two points per game.

Mortar pinning reduces expected points. So if the Bucs possess a kicker that can consistently do such, then not only can the kicker score points, but also prevent points from happening.

Here's a Roy Cummings article quoting Bucs' head coach Dirk Koetter about point scoring:

When the league put that rule in, they put that rule in thinking everybody was just going to kick it out and take the ball on the 25. But the analytics say that (by taking the ball at) the 25, there's a 3-percent (increase) in scoring — 2 percent touchdowns, 1 percent field goals.

Apparently, Koetter and his math minions are already onto this numbers games that we fans usually are not privy to see.

Mortar Pinning: Hang Time

From thescore.com:

Leg strength on kickoffs improved with each year. Has outstanding 4.09 kickoff hang time.

K Roberto Aguayo
Mortar Kicking (Basic Calculations)
Run Time based on a 4.3 second 40 yard run.
Kicking Distance 25 yard line 20 yard line 15 yard line 10 yard line 5 yard line Touchback
40 yds 4.30 sec
45 yds 4.84 sec
50 yds 5.38 sec
55 yds 5.91 sec
60 yds 6.45 sec
65 yds 6.99 sec
MORTAR PINNING ZONE
Hang Time 4.09 sec 4.09 sec 4.09 sec 4.09 sec 4.09 sec 4.09 sec
Time left once ball hits desitination 0.21 sec 0.75 sec 1.29 sec 1.82 sec 2.36 sec 2.90 sec
MORTAR PINNING ZONE
Expect Points 0.58 0.34 0.11 -0.23 -0.4 0.34

When Aguayo kicks aim towards...

At the 25 yard line, a receiver has virtually no time to react.

At the 20 yard line, a receiver has less than a second to react.

At the 15 yard line, a receiver has a little over a second to react.

At the 10 yard line, a receiver has less than two seconds to react.

Here is a snippet from MMQB of FSU coach Jimbo Fisher about Aguayo's mortar kicking:

"We kept him from kicking it out," Fisher says. "If it's at the 20-yard-line [for a touchback], I don't mind kicking it out. But if you're going to give that extra five yards, as a play caller, I know the difference that means."

Fisher usually asked him to try to drop his kickoffs in a pocket right by the goal line with a hang time of more than four seconds so the return team would have time to get down the field and corral the returner. At his Pro Day, scouts watched him boom several kickoffs out of the end zone, and also timed the hang times of his high kicks. They were pleased that he consistently broke four seconds. What stands out about Aguayo is that he has both distance and accuracy.

Conclusion

As for FG efficiency, Aguayo is not any different from the many kickers that can be found in the NFL today. Connor Barth was just as efficient as Aguayo in field goal kicking. The problem with Barth was his kick offs.  Barth struggled to get touchbacks regularly. Aguayo does not have that problem. In fact, Aguayo has the ability to hang the ball in the air longer than Barth.

The Broncos released Barth because Barth could not perform well enough on kickoffs:

Barth continued to be steady on placekicks, at which he was perfect during preseason play. But he struggled on kickoffs, and couldn't match the consistent distance and hang time of McManus, who routinely gets the football into the end zone with hang times of 4.2 seconds or more. Barth's kickoffs were often in the 3.75-3.95 second range, including two kickoffs of 3.80 seconds in Seattle on Aug. 14 which resulted in long returns, including Tyler Lockett's 103-yard touchdown jaunt.

Four days after the Seahawks game, Barth drilled a 65-yard field goal in practice moments after McManus clobbered a 70-yarder through the uprights. But after that practice, DeCamillis made it clear that kickoffs would also matter in the competition.

Lost amidst the trading up for a kicker and the fact the kicker rarely sees the field to kick for points, is the battle of field position.  Just how terrible were the Bucs last season? According to Footballoutsiders.com, the Bucs ranked 31st in opponents' average starting field position at the 29.88 yard line.(Granted, the stat probably includes punting situations.) That is beyond abysmal. According to the expected points chart, the Bucs' special teams is giving up more than where the new ball placement will be this year, moving up from the 20 yard line to the 25 yard line.

Don't worry, I just found out about that stat while writing the conclusion that the Bucs were second to last at giving the opponents a great starting field position. The Bucs have had problems with kickoffs since they have had Barth on its roster, but are unable to move away from Barth because he is so consistent at field goal kicking. Now, the Bucs do not have to worry about finding a consistent place kicker as well as a great kick off specialist.

Finally, we come to the cost of trading up for Aguayo. As shown in the article, the cost for moving up 15 spots was quite cheap at 5 points per jump draft slot. Who exactly would want to draft Aguayo that would cause the Bucs to move up that far ahead, at the 59th pick?

Opponent Starting Ranks and Draft Position
2016
Opp Starting Position Rank Avg Starting LOS Team Draft Position Playoff Team
32 31.02 SD 66th
31 29.88 TB 74th
30 29.61 Det 95th*
29 29.49 Den 63rd x
28 29.26 Hou 85th
27 28.89 Cle 65th
26 28.84 SF 68th
25 28.64 Ten 64th
24 28.6 Pit 89th x
23 28.23 Jax 69th
22 28 Dal 67th
http://www.footballoutsiders.com/stats/drivestats

There are two playoff teams in the bottom tenth of average starting LOS, Denver and Pittsburg. Although Denver's kicker was perfect during the post season, Brandon McManus was a middling 85.7% during the regular season.  So it could be possible that Denver wanted a more reliable kicker.  That is the only team I see worth jumping over to get Aquayo.

Drafting a kicker in the 2nd round is really unheard of. Trading up for a kicker in the second round is in a more rarified field. So after taking a long walk on a short proverbial pier, coming into this draft the Bucs needed to address the defensive end, cornerback position, and safety position. Yet, the Bucs were not drafting for need, but rather improved talent depth. The drafting of Aguayo is improved talent that Connor Barth cannot deliver in the kick off department.  Field position is an important aspect to the game and many fans, including myself, just take for granted about kick offs as well as the impending new change. Aguayo can prevent or reduce scoring. An aspect of the kickers I really had no idea about until doing this article.

According to Five Thirty Eight, kickers are becoming more accurate from longer distances. With a starting point at the 25 yard line, a team needs only traverse 42 yards to attempt a 50 yard field goal attempt or 47 yards for a 55 yard field goal attempt. (Assuming it is 17 yards tacked onto the LOS for the place kick.)  So pinning a team back even 10 extra yards makes a huge difference for the opposing offense to travel to score any points.

MMQB informs us, from the same link above, something about Aguayo and kicking techniques -€” besides kicking the ball:

He comes to the NFL with a toolbox larger than many other kickers'. For example, Aguayo mastered six different kickoff techniques in college, which have him primed for whatever strategy NFL coaches will ask him to execute. Aguayo guesses that about half the teams in the league will alter their strategy on kickoffs based on the new rule.

Orlando Sentinel's Brendan Sonnone quoted Jimbo Fisher,

The first [objective] is usually to pin the opponent back as far as possible by kicking the ball high and letting a stable of athletes sprint down field and wreak havoc.

"From my perspective, as an offensive guy, when you get pinned inside the 20 or especially that 15, how you gotta call things, you gotta be careful," Fisher said. "You can't drop back. You get a holding call then and all of a sudden you're inside the five, now you're punting."

The Bucs offense plans on scoring and scoring a lot. Maybe it is a great idea to secure a player who can help prevent the other team from scoring after the Bucs score? It is also possible that special team gunners who have 4.3 second speed in the likes of Kenny Bell and Ryan Smith may play an even more pivotal role on special teams.

Tampa did not trade up for Aguayo's kicking proficiency. They traded up to secure a major deficiency in their special teams department as well as get ahead of everyone else when the touchbacks now come out the 25 yard line.  Agauyo has direct impact of reducing the opposition from scoring. The front office improved all three aspects of Bucs football: offense (past two drafts), defense (during FA and the draft), and special teams (with Aguayo along with speedsters Bell and Ryan Smith). Field position matters and the Bucs made sure to get a leg up on it in the 2016 NFL draft for a relative cheap price to move up and secure such a specialist...  such a king "pin".