The last time the Rams held the No. 6 pick in the draft, the franchise was coming off three consecutive seasons of declining victories and in dire need of a player who could help them turn the corner.

The answer was receiver Torry Holt, who was the highest-rated player on the team's draft board in 1999.

Oh, the Rams bluffed about drafting a cornerback, but they were so sure about their pick that Holt was the only player for whom they had a jersey made in the days before the draft.

Holding the sixth pick for the first time since, the Rams face a similar situation this week. Should they attempt to repeat history and select Oklahoma State receiver Justin Blackmon if available or fill another need and take a receiver in the second round?

The consensus is that the Rams would take Blackmon. But he would come with a "buyer beware" warning from many because of a track record that indicates receivers picked among the top 10 are riskier propositions than other positions.

"Every year is different," said Mike Mayock, draft analyst for the NFL Network. "That perception is changing a little because of the rule changes in the NFL and the way the league has gone to a pass-first mentality."

However, he notes that the complexities receivers face in the NFL are "a completely different thing, and mentally and physically that slows you."

Since 2000, 48 receivers have been selected in the first round, with 18 taken among the top 10.

Among those 18 were Larry Fitzgerald, Andre Johnson, Calvin Johnson and Plaxico Burress, who have averaged 1,050 yards per season in their careers. But the list includes Troy Williamson, Mike Williams, David Terrell and, most notably, Charles Rogers, who never met expectations.

Gil Brandt, an analyst for NFL.com and former Dallas Cowboys personnel executive, said that over the last 10 years only quarterbacks taken in the first round have had a greater "mortality rate," as he calls it, than receivers.

"For some reason, they have not performed as well as hoped," he said. "My perception is that I hate to take receivers in the first round."

Receivers picked in the top 10 in the last 12 drafts have averaged 40 receptions, 560 yards and 3½ touchdowns as rookies. Those numbers increased to 50, 713 and 4.2 in their second seasons. But while five topped 1,000 yards by year two, just as many were on the path to obscurity.

There are numerous theories about why many receivers never adapt to the NFL. The game is faster, the coverages and routes more complex. But the most cited reason is the NFL's use of press coverages, which most receivers don't see in college.

"They're going to see a lot more bump coverage, guys right up on them, and it's hard for us to even find film of guys against the bump," John Elway, Denver's vice president of football operations, told the Denver Post. "If you're a top-tier wide receiver in college, guys like Blackmon or Notre Dame's Michael Floyd or Baylor's Kendall Wright, few defenses will have cornerbacks who have any sort of chance to match up in press, man-to-man coverage."

Brandt has Blackmon rated as the top receiver this year but only 13th overall in the draft. Many consider him among six blue-chip prospects.

So, the Rams must decide if their need at receiver is great enough to go with Blackmon or gamble and see who is available with the first pick in the second round. Brandt believes Blackmon, Floyd, Wright and Georgia Tech's Stephen Hill are first-rounders.

But it's not like great receivers have not emerged from lower rounds. Marques Colston, who has five 1,000-yard seasons, was taken in the seventh round in 2006, Brandon Marshall was a fourth-rounder in 2006, Steve Smith was third-rounder in 2002, and Wes Welker was undrafted.

The problem this year, Mayock contends, is that there is a large divide between the top receivers and best of the rest.

"When you look at receivers in the first round, you're asking, 'OK, who can make plays?' And Blackmon can make plays," he said. "I don't like the second round (receivers) as much and a lot of years I like them more. This year I like the first round more."

Former Rams general manager Billy Devaney was known to say that you could always find a receiver. Thus, it is not a surprise that the team has not used any of its 14 first-round picks since 2000 on the position. The only second-round receiver was Donnie Avery.

Instead, the Rams have hoped that lesser-known names would produce. Since drafting Holt they have picked 13 receivers, who have averaged 1½ years with the team each and produced a combined 450 catches, 5,420 yards and 26 touchdowns. Holt had 869 catches, 12,660 yards and 74 touchdowns in 10 seasons.

Names such as Milton Wynn, Eric Crouch, Dante Ridgeway, Brooks Foster and Mardy Gilyard do not generate confidence among fans when it comes to the franchise's draft history with receivers.

Despite his philosophy, Brandt believes the Rams must look hard at Blackmon.

"He's a player that is much like Michael Irvin," he said. "I'm not saying he'll be in the Hall of Fame, but he can catch the quick slant and make first downs. He was very effective in college. There's no question a receiver would help them a great deal."