The Bears will have the 18th pick in the first round of the 2009 NFL Draft unless the San Diego Chargers reach Super Bowl XLIII.
The league released a tentative draft order today and the Bears wind up picking second among the five teams that finished with a 9-7 record, including the NFC West champion Arizona Cardinals. The New York Jets, who had games against the AFC West and NFC West, edged ahead of the Bears based on a weaker strength of schedule. And the Inside the Bears staff thought two games vs. Detroit would be enough to ruin anyone's strength of schedule.
San Diego, which won the AFC West at 8-8 after a second-half surge following the promotion of ex-Bears defensive coordinator Ron Rivera to defensive coordinator, will choose 16th. If the Chargers reach the Super Bowl, they'll drop to 31st or 32nd, depending on whether or not they win the game.
Here is the top 20 tentative draft slots, as released by the NFL:
2. St. Louis
3. Kansas City
9. Green Bay
10. San Francisco
14. New Orleans
16. San Diego
17. New York Jets
19. Tampa Bay
20. Detroit (from Dallas)
For what it's worth, the only time the Bears had an 18th pick, they selected wide receiver Willie Gault in 1983.