All-ACL team: NFL's rehab warriors

Not too long ago, there was only one relevant question for a football player with a torn ACL: Where's the retirement party?

There were no surgical options such as the one David Fleming detailed in this week's ESPN.com Hot Read. No one got to choose between a cadaver's ligament or an internal replacement. There were no elite rehabilitation centers.

The advent of arthroscopic surgery shifted the question ever so slightly: Could a player regain anything close to his previous performance upon his return?

Only in recent years has the paradigm changed. Punctuated by Adrian Peterson's 2,097-yard season in 2012, it is now routine for a player to pick up his career where he left off -- often less than a year after the injury. Those whose careers are ended or altered for the worse now occupy the minority.

With that trend in mind, ESPN.com's NFL staff has assembled an "All-ACL team" of active players who -- for the most part -- are excelling post-injury. We have relied on objective data whenever possible, but in some cases employed ratings from Pro Football Focus to assess players' pre- and post-injury performance.

We present the All-ACL offensive team below. Click here for the All-ACL defensive team.

ESPN.com's All-ACL Team: Offense

QB: Tom Brady

Injury date: Week 1, 2008 Return date: Week 1, 2009

Key before/after facts: Brady has become more efficient since the injury, with a touchdown/interception ratio of 3.51, compared to 2.29 before. He also has been more than three times as harried, pressured on 18.6 percent of his dropbacks, compared to 5.2.

Honorable mention: Robert Griffin III, Redskins; Brian Hoyer, Browns; Philip Rivers, Chargers.

RB: Jamaal Charles

Injury date: Week 2, 2011 Return date: Week 1, 2012

Key before/after facts: Charles' yards per carry dropped from 6.1 before the injury to 5.2. But he actually is averaging more explosive runs per game -- 12 yards or more -- since the injury (1.7) than before (1.2).

Honorable mention: Frank Gore, 49ers; Adrian Peterson, Vikings.

WR: Jeremy Maclin

Injury date: Preseason, 2013 Return date: Week 1, 2014

Key before/after facts: In a small sample and in a new scheme, Maclin has been more explosive after his injury. He is averaging 16.1 yards per catch and 0.9 touchdowns per game since the injury (13.38 and 0.4 before, respectively). Also, his drop percentage has lowered from 3.4 to 1.0.

WR: Reggie Wayne

Injury date: Week 7, 2013 Return date: Week 1, 2014

Key before/after facts: In the nine games since returning, Wayne has been just as productive (5.22 receptions per game, compared to 5.13) and nearly as explosive. He's averaging 12.7 yards per catch, compared to 13.5 before the injury, and is still getting downfield. The average air yards of passes thrown his way is 10.1 compared to 11.5.

WR: Donnie Avery

Injury date: Preseason, 2010 Return date: Week 4, 2011

Key before/after facts: Avery is averaging fewer receptions per game after the injury (2.7, compared to 3.2) and less yards after the catch (3.7, compared to 4.2) but is producing slightly more per reception (13.4 yards, compared to 12.6).

TE: Rob Gronkowski

Injury date: Week 14, 2013 Return date: Week 1, 2014

Key before/after facts: Since returning, Gronkowski has a higher touchdown rate (0.9 per game, compared to 0.84 before). He's averaging slightly fewer yards after the catch (5.64, compared to 5.90), but is averaging more yards after contact (3.19) than he was prior (2.40).

Honorable mention: Heath Miller, Steelers.

LT: Joe Thomas

Injury date: Bowl game, January 2006 (college)
Return date: Week 1, 2006 (college)

Key before/after facts: Thomas didn't miss a game after suffering the injury, maintaining his status as an elite NFL prospect. He was selected No. 3 overall by the Browns in the 2007 draft and has gone on to seven Pro Bowls. He is a four-time All-Pro at the position.

RT: Bryan Bulaga

Injury date: Preseason, 2013 Return date: Week 1, 2014

Key before/after facts: The injury scrapped plans to convert Bulaga to left tackle. Back on the right side this season, he is rated No. 23 among tackles by PFF. He was at No. 48 in 2012 but No. 7 in 2011.

LG: James Carpenter

Injury date: Week 11, 2011 Return date: Week 4, 2012

Key before/after facts: Carpenter was injured in his rookie season. Since then, he has started 31 of a possible 35 games. He was PFF's 65th-ranked guard in 2013 but has elevated to No. 22 this season.

Honorable mention: Logan Mankins, Buccaneers.

RG: Marshal Yanda

Injury date: Week 5, 2008 Return date: Week 1, 2009

Key before/after facts: After returning from the injury, Yanda made himself into a three-time All-Pro (2011-13). PFF rates him the best guard in the NFL this season.

C: Maurkice Pouncey

Injury date: Week 1, 2013 Return date: Week 1, 2014

Key before/after facts: Pouncey has started all 11 games since returning from the injury. PFF rates him its seventh-best center in 2014. He was No. 12 in 2012 and No. 20 in 2011.

Honorable mention: Jason Kelce, Eagles; Kory Lichtensteiger, Redskins.

Also see: All-ACL team: Defense/specialists