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Create Placeholders. You can then replace the Placeholder - in the timeline, by Alt-dragging footage onto it; or in the footage window by Replace Footage.
Alternatively, you can create precomps that hold all of the animation data -to change those out, modify the layers in the precomp.
"Drop zones" is the wrong term. Such functionality does not exist in the same way as it does in Motion. What you are looking for is timeline footage replacement as explained by Andrew. It has however some disadvantages as it does not work with all layer types - since shape layers, text and lights are procedural AE items, they cannot be replaced. Therefore a more workable way would be to structure your project with sub-compositions. This will give you the freedom to change whatever you like within those pre-comps, but leave the main composition intact. Also consider all the other options AE offers you for re-using setups by simply replacing footage in the project window, defining proxies or saving animation presets for effects, masks and expressions.