How Long Is An Auction Draft and Why Does It Last So Long

Last Updated December 7, 2023

The average auction draft duration is traditionally 65-90% longer than the average snake draft. Why is that? Is there a way to make it shorter without making it too chaotic? Drafty's founder (that's me, Daniel 👋) found the cause of marathon auction drafts and fixed it.

If you're data nerd like me, you'll love the summary of my research in this article. If you're not, well... I'm giving you a TLDR here at the top. You're welcome. 😁

TLDR (Too Long Didn't Read)

How long does an auction draft last?

It depends on the size of your league but a 150-player auction draft (10 teams, 15 roster spots) traditionally will last 3 to 3.5 hours. Drafty offers time-saving options to shorten auction draft duration by 1 to 1.5 hours.

Why is an auction draft so long?

The simple answer is player nominations. The traditional method of nominating players happens between each auction which compounds the total draft time. If your max time limit is 45 seconds and you're drafting 150 players, over an hour of your draft will be spent nominating players.

How to make an auction draft shorter?

Drafty's default player nomination format called Freeze Tag solves the problem by removing 85% of player nomination downtime, saving approx. 50 minutes in our 10-team, 15-player mock draft. Other tactics include adjusting the draft time limit, nomination time limit, or late bid threshold - all of which are editable in Drafty's custom auction draft rooms.

End of TLDR Now back to our total nerd-out on auction draft duration. 🤓

Draft Size and Time Limit Mathematics

Everything discussed below assumes a 10-team league with 15 roster spots per team and a 45-second master time limit. This is a popular fantasy league size and makes the math a little easier to follow.

(number of teams * number of players per team * time limit) = (minimum auction draft duration) (10 teams * 15 players per team * 45-second timer) = 112.5 minutes, minimum

Minimum Auction Draft Duration

Here's a bonus example of how long an auction draft will last based on the above formula, since a lot of dynasty leagues have 25 roster spots per team and many of our users are in a dynasty league.

10 teams * 15 players * 45 seconds = 1 hour 52.5 minutes 10 teams * 25 players * 45 seconds = 3 hours 7.5 minutes

The above formula is the absolute minimum amount of time your auction draft will last. In practice, an auction draft takes much longer because it is standard protocol to reset the timer whenever a new bid is placed with under 10 seconds remaining.

Extra Time Spent Bidding

Because the timer resets after a last-second bid (curse you, snipers!), it is common for a third (1/3) of the draft pool to take twice as long since bidding takes longer for popular players. Note that these are estimates - the data shows 25-60% more bidding time and no two drafts are exactly alike.

If we adjust for extra bidding time, auction draft durations look like this:

150 players * 45 seconds + extra bidding = 2 hours 30 minutes 250 players * 45 seconds + extra bidding = 4 hours 10 minutes

Time Spent Nominating Players

The above examples still exclude the time spent nominating players! Now, as I alluded to earlier, Drafty offers a player nomination format that does not compound your draft time, so the below calculations assume your fantasy league is using the traditional method.

Drafty data from real fantasy drafts shows over an hour spent on player nominations per draft. The range is 50min to 2hr 15min, with an average of 1hr 5min. Again it is worth saying that this time will vary based on the number of players drafted and your draft room's nomination time limit.

Putting it in our formula...

150 players * 45 seconds + extra bidding + time spent nominating = 3 hours 35 minutes 250 players * 45 seconds + extra bidding + time spent nominating = 5 hours 45 minutes

That's a long time to be drafting! Or, more accurately, a long time to be sitting around waiting for your leaguemates to nominate the next player! 😴

Now that we've established the math on top of the research, let's answer the core question more succinctly.

Why is an auction draft so long?

The simple answer is player nominations. In an auction draft, the traditional method for nominating players is turn-based and it happens between each player auction which compounds the total draft duration. If the master time limit is 45 seconds, time spent nominating will account for 35-50% of the total draft length.

That's a problem because while one person nominates everyone else just sits and waits. That's called downtime and we got rid of it by inventing a new nomination format. More on that in a moment.

Traditional Auction Draft Sequence

The draft room sequence from an auction draft using traditional player nominations looks like this:

  1. Team A nominates Player 1 (10sec)
  2. Teams bid on Player 1 (2min 15sec)
  3. Team B nominates Player 2 (28sec)
  4. Teams bid in Player 2 (1min 50sec)
  5. Team C nominates Player 3 (40sec)
  6. Teams bid on Player 3 (1min 42sec)

In this example, we are 8 minutes into our draft and only rostered 3 players. With 10 teams drafting 15 players each, this auction draft is on pace to last over 5 hours! 😱 Now, the average time spent bidding on players does go down gradually throughout the draft (because fewer bids on less desirable players) but guess what... the average time spent nominating players goes UP as the pool of available players gets thinner.

The result is over an hour of downtime in a 3-hour draft, which is exactly why the later rounds in an auction draft seem to drag on and on.

How To Shorten An Auction Draft with Freeze Tag Nominations

Drafty's founder invented a better way to handle player nominations. It's now called Freeze Tag and it is a revolutionary nomination system that allows team owners to nominate a player at any point during the draft. No more downtime between auctions!

We go into detail about how Freeze Tag player nominations work in the docs but data we've collected from real fantasy auction drafts using Freeze Tag shows 90 minutes less time spent between auctions, which makes total draft time comparable to a snake draft.

To say it another way, Drafty's Freeze Tag format removes 85% of player nomination downtime compared to auction drafts using traditional player nominations.

Custom Timer Controls Reduce Auction Draft Time

Drafty has other time-saving tools that league commissioners can employ on draft day. Here is a quick list.

  • The Fast-Forward button can speed up a single auction when the bidding is lackluster
  • The Master Time Limit can be reduced as the draft moves into the later rounds
  • The Buffer Time between auctions is adjustable to keep the action moving
  • The Reset Timer threshold for last-second bids is adjustable

Learn more about commissioner controls and settings in the draft room manual.

Blind Bid Auction Draft Format is Shorter

The silent auction draft format on Drafty is the fastest auction draft you'll find anywhere because the master time limit represents the maximum amount of time each player auction will consume. Let me explain...

This fantasy draft format works like FAAB waivers used in many fantasy leagues whereby teams submit private bids and the highest submitted bid wins. If all teams lock in a bid before time expires, things really speed up.

Turn-Based Bidding Makes Auction Drafts Longer

Drafty's poker auction draft format - developed in response to a custom request - is the longest auction draft format. This is a turn-based auction draft whereby teams follow a draft order and take turns raising the bid or folding. Because each bidding cycle continues until every team has folded except one, this draft format can last 5+ hours without breaking a sweat.

In Conclusion

A classic live auction draft will last 3 to 3.5 hours because there is substantial downtime involved with the traditional method for player nominations. The Drafty platform offers time-saving options to combat downtime, most notably the Freeze Tag player nomination format and several in-draft timer controls.

Drafty was founded with a mission to make auction drafts more accessible. Critics often point to long auction draft duration as a barrier to wider adoption, which makes sense - adults with busy lives are carving out time for draft day so a shorter draft is usually desirable. So hopefully by innovating a shorter auction draft experience we can entice more people to enjoy the thrill and make the switch!

Whether you prefer a shorter or longer draft, I'd love to know how we're doing. If you have any feedback about your Drafty experience or just want to share a nightmare story from a marathon draft, send Daniel a message.

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