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NFL draft analysis: Patriots sixth-rounder Cassh Maluia offers ‘the versatility of many positions’

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COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 22 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl - Central Michigan v Wyoming Photo by Steve Conner/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Shortly after the NFL draft, Pats Pulpit did an analysis of 16 different draft boards to find the biggest steals and reaches of the New England Patriots’ 2020 draft class. Of the 10 players who were analyzed and compared to the experts’ pre-draft rankings, only one did not make even a single big board (despite two of them having more than 500 players listed): sixth-round linebacker Cassh Maluia, who the Patriots chose with the 204th overall selection.

Maluia may have been the ultimate under-the-radar pick for New England on the third day of the draft, but he still brings an impressive résumé to the table. The 21-year-old appeared in a combined 50 games during his college career at Wyoming, and showed his value as a downhill run defender and a player capable of making the big play in the passing game as well. Naturally, this versatility is one of his best qualities heading into the NFL.

No matter if it is defense or the kicking game, the 2019 All-Mountain West Conference honorable selection feels confident in his ability to carve out a position on the Patriots’ roster. Maluia pointed this out during his introductory conference call with the New England media shortly after getting drafted last month, when he spoke about being able to play more than just role and be willing to contribute on special teams as well.

“I feel like I’ve got the versatility of many positions. I’m willing to do whatever the coaches want me to do, just to go out there and contribute the best I can for the Patriots,” Maluia said. “I would say I was pretty comfortable on the field wherever I was. I played special teams my whole freshman year. I feel like I can definitely contribute on special teams, and that was my plan to get noticed: play special teams.”

Maluia’s impact in the kicking game may have gone somewhat unnoticed compared to his defensive play — during his senior season, for example, he had 61 tackles and two interceptions — but it could very much be the key to him making New England’s 53-man squad regardless of his draft status: the team did lose core special teamer Nate Ebner in free agency, and Maluia appears to be a fitting candidate to fill his void on kick coverage.

For the time being, however, the rookie is still in his pro football honeymoon phase to a certain degree (even though that could soon change given that the Patriots have just kicked off their 2020 rookie developmental program earlier this week): “It feels really, really great. It’s just an honor to be part of this program. It was really breathtaking when I first got the call. I couldn’t be happier about being a Patriot.”

So, what kind of player are the Patriots getting in the 6-foot-0 linebacker? According to the man himself, he brings an aggressive and hard-nosed mentality to the table that is reflected in his playing style. He also offers something else, that goes back to the versatility that makes him a candidate — the willingness to follow New England’s “Do Your Job”-mantra: “I’ll do whatever I can for the team.”