FRISCO, Texas – In describing the Cowboys’ approach to the NFL Draft (and overall roster building), Will McClay borrowed a phrase from head coach Mike McCarthy.
“‘Everybody has to do two things,'” McClay, Cowboys vice president of player personnel, said earlier this month.
For seventh-round pick Matt Farniok, it’s at least three things:
Center. Guard. Tackle.
Farniok played everywhere in four seasons at Nebraska, where he became just the 13th two-time captain in program history. He made 26 starts at right tackle from his freshman year through his junior season. As a senior he moved inside, mostly at right guard.
That position flexibility made him the 11th of 11 Cowboys draft picks: No. 238 overall.
The Cowboys’ message to the 6-foot-5, 311-pounder?
“They told me to be versatile,” Farniok said. “They said be ready to play every position, whether it’s guard, center or tackle, just be ready.”
Versatility is a pretty common requirement on the offensive line, particularly when you consider the Cowboys’ injuries last season. The line had eight different starting lineups. Only left guard Connor Williams started all 16 games.
Connor McGovern, a 2019 third-round pick, provided depth at guard and center. Veteran Joe Looney has done the same for the past five seasons, but he’s currently still a free agent.
Perhaps there’s opportunity for Farniok to grab a backup spot if he shows enough ability at multiple spots. Ironically, the position he worked at most during last week’s rookie minicamp – center – was the position he played least in college.
“My really first-ever time playing center was just last year,” he said. “I played it in practice at Nebraska and started one game at center and then I had a couple of rotational series for about two or three other games.”
Perhaps Farniok’s main focus will be competing for a spot behind second-year center Tyler Biadasz. But he’ll have his nose in the playbook at every position.
“The more you know, the faster you’re going to play, and the faster you can play the better you’re going to be,” he said. “So every day I learn whatever position they had me play the most, and then I go to the position next to it, all the way down the line. Because knowing what all five guys are supposed to do lets you just play ball instead of thinking about it.”
Like Biadasz (Wisconsin), Farniok comes from a college program known for outstanding line play. He sees the same kind of tradition in Dallas.
“They’ve got five guys that are tremendous players that as a young guy they’re going to be awesome to learn from,” he said. “They’re veterans, they’ve been doing this for a while. They kind of know the tips and tricks that can help me become a better player.”