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Latest draft projection has Bears picking ninth overall

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The Chicago Bears' victory on Christmas Eve over the Browns may have implications for next spring’s NFL draft.

According to the latest ESPN Power Football Index, the Bears (5-10) are projected to draft ninth overall in Round 1 after the New York Jets (5-10), Denver Broncos (5-10) and San Francisco 49ers (5-10).

The good news, if any exists for the Bears in 2017, is that Sunday’s opponent, Minnesota, is playing for a first-round bye. The Vikings (12-3) mopped the floor with the Bears 38-10 last year in Week 17 at U.S. Bank Stadium. The odds the Bears escape with a win on New Year’s Eve seem remote.

The Bears could also get help from the surging 49ers, who’ve won four straight since making the switch to Jimmy Garoppolo at quarterback. The Niners, though, play Sunday at Los Angeles (11-4), so a victory is far from guaranteed.

The Bears do have history at No. 9 overall -- if that’s ultimately where they end up. Chicago moved up two spots to draft Leonard Floyd with the ninth pick in 2016. Floyd (injured reserve) is a nice player with potential, but he’s hardly been a game-changer (he has 11.5 career sacks).

The Bears need to hit home runs in the top 10. Chicago is 14-33 under general manager Ryan Pace, who’s on the verge of picking in the top 10 for the fourth straight year. That’s nowhere near good enough. The only reward for a terrible season is draft status. The Bears clearly haven’t capitalized.

To be fair, they have collected promising young players via the draft (Mitchell Trubisky, Tarik Cohen, Eddie Jackson, Eddie Goldman, Jordan Howard, Cody Whitehair and Adrian Amos) over the past three years.

The only way a team like the Bears can turn it around -- no playoff appearances in 10 of 11 years -- is to max out in the first round.