Miller was suspended for four games today for violating the league's substance abuse policy. Though he is appealing the suspension, it is unlikely it will be overturned. It's a significant loss for the Denver defense.
Obviously, the Broncos will miss what Miller provides as a pass rusher. Miller and Elvis Dumervil, who the team failed to re-sign after a fax machine snafu, accounted for 29.5 of the team's 52 sacks last year. However, the loss of flexibility in the front seven and Miller's stout run defense -- who was easily Denver's most effective run defender last year -- may be just as important.
Miller is already a player whose fantasy value is going to vary significantly depending on league scoring system. In big play and sack-heavy scoring systems, his value remains high. He will immediately return to LB1 value on his return and carry that value through the remainder of the season and into the fantasy playoffs. In more balanced systems, his value is depleted enough for him to maybe fall outside the top-20 or so drafted linebackers in redraft leagues.
In those leagues, Miller's situation is similar to that of Daryl Washington. If you are risk averse, there are plenty of other options to consider. However, should Miller start sliding beyond where you would normally take him, he becomes a value play. And if you consider the best rush outside linebackers as no better than a strong LB2 risk, you may not need to drop him on your board at all. Unless your league is extremely deep, you will be able to find solid replacement options through the first month of the season.
Dynasty owners have more to consider. This positive test puts Miller in jeopardy of a year long suspension should he violate the substance abuse policy again. Dynasty owners who downgrade players based on the "knucklehead" variable should consider moving him, but don't pull the trigger at a discount.
It's not yet clear how the Broncos will replace Miller. We could see Shaun Phillips add a role as the base defensive strong side linebacker to his nickel pass rushing duties. But Phillips wasn't good at all against the run last year. Stewart Bradley could be a base defensive option or Denver could go small at outside linebacker with both Woodyard and Danny Trevathan in the base defense. None of those options are exciting for fantasy purposes.
Derek Wolfe may see a bump in expected value from the consensus. But that's a risky conclusion. Wolfe played nearly 1000 snaps last season, so his playing time won't increase. Although he had six sacks, he wasn't a consistently effective pass rusher. He may actually convert fewer of his successful pressures without Miller and Dumervil affecting the pocket around him.
That's a long way of saying that there is not a must have fantasy option elsewhere on the Denver depth chart right now. Watch the camp reports closely for news on Phillips and Trevathan, but let your leaguemates overbid for both. Neither player is likely to see more than a short term bump in fantasy value this year.
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