An NFL-high four players were claimed off waivers from the New England Patriots on Sept. 3, 2017.
Rookie wideout Austin Carr, tight end James O’Shaughnessy and sixth-round offensive tackle Conor McDermott were among them.
So was a cornerback out of Valdosta State named Kenny Moore II.
Moore became an Indianapolis Colt as rosters went to 53 apiece that weekend. And the AFCA first-team All-American, All-Gulf South Conference selection and Tropical Bowl participant would go on to become a 16-game player.
It wasn’t the expected outcome for Division-II product whose undrafted Patriots pact carried $5,000 in guarantees. The odds of Moore being in on 38 tackles, a forced fumble, five passes defensed and a 25-yard interception return certainly fell along the same lines.
But he was.
Moore logged more downs on his side of scrimmage than Carr, O’Shaughnessy and McDermott did on theirs with the New Orleans Saints, Jacksonville Jaguars and Buffalo Bills combined in 2017. The 5-foot-9, 190-pound corner did so despite checking into the Colts’ secondary for only two of his first 10 appearances.
A role at gunner was carved early on with Indianapolis, as Moore tracked down punts and kickoffs not unlike he did during his preseason audition in Foxborough, when he posted 11 tackles to go with one deflection. He proceeded to notch his first official tackle in the Indianapolis opener, then volleyed a would-be touchback to the one-yard line later that month.
Moore wound up tied for the second-most snaps on Indianapolis’ special teams with 287, while also finishing with 381 snaps on defense.
He earned 323 of those defensive reps over Indianapolis’ final six games, starting the last five after another familiar face in Rashaan Melvin – now with the Oakland Raiders – as well as Pierre Desir were placed on injured reserve.
“I’m just trying to do the best I can for this team,” Moore told Colts.com after recording his first career interception in a December loss to the Denver Broncos. “I appreciate the coaches for trusting and believing in me to put me out there. It’s just a blessing to be in this position right now.”
It’s a position Moore wouldn’t have been in alongside Stephon Gilmore, Malcolm Butler, Eric Rowe, Johnson Bademosi and Jonathan Jones. Not all could be kept on the active roster, nor did the Patriots keep any wrong one. What’s clear is that any intentions of keeping Moore in-house on the practice squad dissipated on the first Sunday of September at 12 p.m. ET.
Moore’s place in the Colts’ plans hasn’t dissipated under a new coaching staff.
“Well, I think he’s a player that we look for in terms of showing what our system is about,” defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus said of Moore during mandatory minicamp last week, “in terms of his hustle, his mental makeup, his character and what he displays on the football field. And he’s done a really good job of that this spring so far. We’re anxious to see him when we get the pads on. I know things adjust during that time, but he’s done a really good job for us up to this point.”
Moore graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 63rd overall cornerback in 2017. Along the way he graded third among qualified rookies at the position in PFF’s playmaker index, which accounts for the percentage of targets resulting in either a pass breakup or an interception, with 19.4 percent.
The Saints’ Marshon Lattimore and the Bills’ Tre’Davious White – drafted 11th and 27th last April, respectively – were the ones residing ahead of Moore in that signature stat.
But the stats are reset now as Moore resides among 10 on Indianapolis’ depth chart. The Chris Ballard-managed war room did not go cornerback over the course of its 11 draft picks this spring, which leaves Moore with a chance to begin 2018 the way he ended 2017.
As a starter next to fellow second-year pros Quincy Wilson and Nate Hairston.