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With eye on future, Pats take Garoppolo

FOXBOROUGH — The New England Patriots, casting an eye toward the future, selected Eastern Illinois quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo with their second-round pick in the NFL draft Friday night.

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady will be 37 in August and doesn’t appear near retirement, but Garoppolo, who says Brady is his favorite player, provides insurance at the position.

Garoppolo and Brady are represented by the same agent, but have not met.

Troy Mallett is the current New England backup, but there have been reports he is on the trading block. Mallett has one year remaining on his rookie contract.

The 6-foot-3, 222-pound Garoppolo threw for 5,050 yards and 53 touchdowns with nine interceptions in 2013. He also ran for four touchdowns and was the winner of the Walter Payton Award, which goes to the top player in FCS.

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Late Thursday night, the Patriots selected Florida defensive lineman Dominique Easley with the No. 29 overall pick.

A 6-foot-2, 288-pound lineman who could play on the inside or outside, Easley was said to have the talent for a top 10 pick before a pair of ACL operations dropped his projections to the second or third day of the draft.

With only a low pick in the first round, the biggest excitement for Patriots fans at Gillette Stadium might have been Tom Brady’s surprise appearance at the teams’ draft party. But Patriots defensive lineman Vince Wilfork was already happy to have Easley aboard.

“I’m lovin this pick !!” Wilfork wrote on Twitter.

The Patriots stocked up on free agent cornerbacks this offseason, leaving them looking for a pass rusher in the draft. Chandler Jones led the team with 11 1-2 sacks last season, but only two teammates had more than three.

New England signed defensive end Will Smith, a 10-year veteran with the New Orleans Saints, but he’ll be 33 in July and he missed all of last season with a torn ACL. Easley gives them another pass-rush threat, but one who also has had injury problems.

He played in 12 games as a sophomore before tearing his left ACL in the regular-season finale against Florida State and missing the Gator Bowl. He started in 11 games as a junior, missing two games with a sprained meniscus. He lasted only three games his senior year before tearing his right ACL in practice.

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