In Defense Of Slow Drafts

Most of you are probably familiar with the concept of slow drafts. Even if you’ve never seen one in action, it’s a slow… draft. Ya draft slowly. Got it.

As a writer, I’m contractually obligated to explain it in excruciating detail. Instead of allowing one to two minutes per pick, a slow draft grants owners a much longer period – often three or four hours. The clock usually “sleeps” during the overnight hours (picks can still be made). I guess that wasn’t too excruciating.

The raison d’être for these languidly-paced drafts is manifold. They’re relatively easy to do via email or other non-fantasy electronic communication (several platforms like FanTrax and CBS also fully support slow drafts). You don’t need to herd every owner into the draft room on the same day and time. Instead, the long pick times are meant to give everybody an opportunity to make their selections around whatever life is throwing at them. And since most of us have fancypants phones these days, we’re constantly connected to the draft room. If we have time to step into a bathroom stall between meetings, we can make our picks on a timely basis.

In my experience, slow drafts are best indicated for leagues that roster a large number of players and/or have many teams. Any commissioner can intuit just how hard it is to schedule a draft for more than say 14 individuals. Even 12-teamers are an exercise in frustration. A slow draft counteracts this administrative nightmare. And when we’re reaching into the deep corners of the player pool for a Mark Payton, Brandon Bailey, or a 16-year-old big bonus IFA baby, a little extra clock time gives owners the opportunity to adjust on the fly. Nobody likes making panic picks.

The Rub

Lately, I’ve seen mounting evidence of frustration with slow drafts. They do have one notable weakness – they’re, uh, slow. And somebody is almost always villianized for moving particularly slowly. Pressure builds for all participants to make their picks as quickly as possible.

There are many reasons for being slow. Some people just have a lot of shit going on in their lives. They can’t prioritize a draft for the 15 to 30 days it runs.

When I have a co-manager, I seek to reach consensus before pulling the trigger. I know I’m a bit domineering as co-manager so I try to be mindful about including my partner in as many decisions as possible. Depending on how responsive they are, this could take anywhere from a minute to several hours. If they’re… slow… I’ll start the process early, when we’re still a few picks away. That doesn’t always help.

A minority of owners don’t research their picks until they’re on the clock (I’m occasionally guilty of this). Most owners crave preparedness and have a plan in place for most of the draft. Some (me again) prefer to remain flexible and unanchored to specific players. At other times, a manager’s queue unexpectedly empties and needs to be refilled. This is an innocent-enough reason for a temporary hold up.

A few especially vilified individuals view moving slowly as a strategic advantage. The more time you spend on the clock, the more likely you are to benefit from breaking news such as Wilmer Flores signing with the Giants or dodge a now-redundant Randy Dobnak. It’s a dubious-yet-undeniable benefit since waiting can also spoil serendipitous timing.

The first two scenarios and others like them should be tolerated by all owners. While it can be frustrating when a couple owners use more of their draft time than the rest of the league, this is a feature of the format. It’s designed specifically to accommodate these obstacles.

If there’s evidence of an owner intentionally drafting slowly, we can consider a couple “fixes.” First, if it’s a friendly league (i.e. a buy-in under $150), then a simple appeal might be sufficient. For example:

Hello [offender],

There is growing frustration with your intentionally slow pace of picking. While I recognize you might perceive a strategic advantage to selecting slowly, I’d like to remind you that the intent of the slow draft is to accommodate individuals who need more time – not to help you maybe catch some lucky breaking news. Everybody is expected to make a selection as soon as they are ready.

If you are unable to speed up, I’ll have to change the rules for future drafts. I’d rather not do this.


The Dictator Commissioner

One rules-based adjustment is to implement an overall clock. For example, in a league where teams select 50 players, everybody gets four hours per pick and 50 hours total. Once all 50 hours are used, they must draft from a queue. So participants can strategically use more than an hour per pick as they need it, but they have to move quickly in aggregate or risk falling into autodraft. (h/t somebody on twitter whose message I lost).

Less clean options include penalties and/or rewards based on average draft time. For example, teams that average less than 30 minutes on the clock (excluding overnight) get one extra lottery ball for the draft. Teams that average over 90 minutes lose half their lottery balls.

A final option is to simply accept that some people will try to game any set of rules. While a rare few might take an agonizingly long time sitting idly for miraculous news, most managers will be courteous and pick when ready. The draft will end. It only feels like it’s gone on forever.

You can follow me on twitter @BaseballATeam

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4 years ago

I play Scoresheet and I like my slow draft. Everyone get’s about 2 to 2.5 hours per pick and the pick times are clearly laid out ahead of time so you know exactly when your pick will be. This allows me to stay nimble in my drafting while also double checking the latest news so I don’t draft people who are hurt.

Drafting is one of the most fun parts of fantasy and doing it slowly allows me to continue that excitement over a couple of weeks instead of a few hours. My league mates and I banter pick choices and share our thoughts about certain players as they come which helps us all become just a little more obsessed with baseball.

4 years ago
Reply to  Bortky

The thing is that with Scoresheet, while the draft is slow, it’s steady. It takes place on a set schedule, and owners can’t deliberately slow down (or for that matter speed up) the pace of the draft. What Brad appears to be referring to is more open-ended selection where the owner makes his pick when he makes his pick.

I agree with you that the SS method is excellent, allowing plenty of time for thinking through (or second guessing lol) your picks while not allowing anyone to screw with the schedule.