One of the more surprising picks San Diego Chargers general manager A.J. Smith made in the 2011 NFL Draft was when he used a pick acquired from the New York Jets as part of the Antonio Cromartie trade on Michigan linebacker Jonas Mouton.
Mouton had been regarded as a mid-to-late round pick by most draft analysts, and the pick looked even worse when Mouton went down with a shoulder injury during the preseason and was placed on injured reserve in Week 3.
Mouton is still getting acclimated to the NFL after he missed the entire 2011 regular season after already being denied offseason workouts last offseason.
"You've got to actually do it with some of the fastest guys walking the earth," Mouton recently said, via Michael Gehlken of the San Diego Union-Tribune. "It's a lot different, but it's still football. I feel like I'm progressing every day. I'm getting better every day. I'm feeling pretty good about it.
"I'm just trying to be the player I know I can be. Everybody tells me I have potential. It'll take a little time."
Time is on Mouton's side. With Takeo Spikes, who led the Chargers with 106 tackles in 2011, and 2010 third-round pick Donald Butler slated to start at inside linebacker, a core role on special teams and some fill-in snaps at inside linebacker figures to be the ceiling for the 24-year-old Mouton this season. Spikes turns 36 in December and will be entering the final year of his contract in 2013, so it's possible that Mouton could be starting alongside Butler next year.