The New England Patriots invested considerable resources in their defensive front seven during this year’s NFL draft. Not only did they bring Michigan’s Josh Uche and Alabama’s Anfernee Jennings on board in the second and third rounds, respectively, they also spent a sixth-round pick on Cassh Maluia out of Wyoming. As opposed Uche and Jennings, however, the 206th overall selection is no lock to spend his rookie season on the Patriots’ 53-man roster.
Maluia does not just lack truly outstanding traits and consistent production in the pass-rushing department, he also is undersized at 5-foot-11, 230 pounds. On top of it all, he also enters the next level with a bit of an injury history.
2016 (freshman): Maluia missed one contest during his true freshman season due to an undisclosed injury, having to sit out his team’s mid-November game against San Diego State. The issue did not seem to bother him for the remainder of the year, though, and he went on to appear in all three of his team’s games after his absence. Maluia thus finished his first season with the Cowboys playing in 13 out of a possible 14 games.
2017 (sophomore): Just two games into his second season, Maluia suffered another injury when he broke his right thumb against Gardner-Webb. The issue did require surgery, but the linebacker did not miss any time and was back on the field the following week. While Maluia did have to wear a club on his right hand for the remainder of the season, he was therefore still able to start all 13 of his school’s games during the 2017 campaign.
2018 (junior): Maluia did miss one game in 2018, for non-medical reasons: he was suspended following an arrest for driving under the influence, underage alcohol consumption and driving without a driver’s license earlier that same year. That said, he did also suffer an injury during his junior season. Maluia hurt his left elbow against Wofford in mid-September and was forced to wear a brace throughout the rest of the season. He eventually underwent Tommy John surgery in the offseason and was forced to sit out spring practices before returning at full during the fall of his 2019 senior year.
What this means for the Patriots
Despite the injuries that he suffered over the course of his four-year career at Wyoming, Maluia did not not miss any games outside of his one-week absence in 2016 and his team suspension two years later. He therefore proved himself a durable player, who was still productive a player on defense and special teams despite a) his ailments and b) playing one of the most physically challenging positions in the sport.
“The past two seasons held me back somewhat, but now there is nothing holding me back and I’m ready to go,” Maluia told Robert Gagliardi of Wyoming Sports ahead of his 2019 senior season — one during which he started all 13 of his team’s games and did not suffer any reported injuries. He therefore entered the pre-draft process at full strength, and also arrived in New England with no medical concerns despite a comparatively long injury history. In short, the 21-year-old is good to go for his rookie season.