Drafting a wide receiver is a bit of guessing game in the NFL.
History shows that the success rate of finding a playmaking receiver in the first round widely varies, and Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh even said that drafting a receiver "is a little bit of a crapshoot."
Ravens Assistant General Manager Eric DeCosta pointed to a common thread with most receivers who pan out in the NFL, and it's a sign that bodes well for the Ravens.
"You can look at any team in the league that has good receivers, and you'll see a quarterback who is pretty darn good," DeCosta said. "You'd be hard pressed to find a really, really good receiver that doesn't have a good quarterback.
"In saying that, we have tremendous confidence in Joe Flacco and his ability to develop receivers."
The numbers back up DeCosta's point.
Every receiver in the top-10 of total receiving yards last season was catching passes from a Pro Bowl quarterback. Half of those receivers were first-round picks, but the others came off the board between the second and sixth rounds.
The league's top receivers came from across the draft, but the similarity was the quality of their quarterbacks.
"They kind of work hand-in-hand," DeCosta said. "There has to be a synergy."
Having a top-flight quarterback can allow teams to be frugal about spending their resources on wide receivers. While other teams load up their receiving corps with expensive free-agent acquisitions or a high draft packs, the Ravens have taken a more prudent approach.
Torrey Smith was the only pass catcher the Ravens have drafted higher than the fourth round during Flacco's tenure, and he developed into a playmaker that the 49ers just paid $40 million to acquire. As the No. 58 draft pick in 2011, Smith ended up catching more touchdowns during his four years in Baltimore than any other receiver in franchise history.
Other receivers currently on the roster have also made significant strides since teaming up with Flacco. Veteran Steve Smith Sr. had a resurgent season at 35 years old during his first year with the Ravens. Marlon Brown caught seven touchdowns as a rookie being an undrafted free agent. Kamar Aiken found a home in Baltimore after bouncing between four teams earlier in his career.
"We've seen that over the last couple of years," DeCosta said. "We've seen guys like Marlon Brown make plays. You saw Aiken last year make plays for us. We've seen Torrey, we've seen Steve."
DeCosta's point is particularly telling as the Ravens go into this year's draft looking to bolster its receiving corps. Many analysts have predicted the Ravens spending a high pick on a playmaker for Flacco, but the Ravens may spend that coveted asset elsewhere and then count on their franchise quarterback to help develop a lower pick that they bring into the mix.
"You look at guys that have not performed or been misses in the NFL, and you have to look at the quarterback," DeCosta said. "It goes the other way too. A quarterback has to have some pretty good playmakers around him. You're not going to have a really good quarterback without some playmakers. It's a synergy."