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Poor man's prospects carry similar traits to elite players without the high draft spot

NCAA Football: Capital One Bowl-Wisconsin vs South Carolina

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Connor Shaw, top, and Bruce Ellington could be draft sleepers. (David Manning-USA TODAY Sports)

So you want your team to draft Jadeveon Clowney, Greg Robinson or Johnny Manziel. Who doesn’t?

Well, most teams won’t even get a whiff of those guys. But that’s not to say that they can’t find something relatively similar a little bit further down in the draft.

Here are a few reasonable facsimiles of those players and others, with similar builds, styles and characteristics who are likely to be drafted in Round 3 or later. And maybe a few of them will prove to be better than the originals.

Top prospect: Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel,

Poor man’s version: South Carolina QB Connor Shaw

Two undersized scrappers who will always give their teams a chance to win with athleticism and determination, Manziel and Shaw both played for SEC schools, operating out of shotgun-heavy offenses and wearing their hearts on their sleeves. Manziel is the more accomplished passer, and Shaw has some serious medical concerns that will dampen his stock. But Steve Spurrier swears by Shaw, and some team will be smart to take a chance on him in the same range as San Jose State QB David Fales.

Top prospect: Louisville QB Teddy Bridgewater

Poor man’s version: San Jose State QB David Fales

You won’t find too many quarterbacks in this draft whose intangibles stack up to those of Bridgewater and Fales, who were the respected beacons for their programs. Both were able to overcome their lack of ideal measureables with hard work, determination, strong football acumen and confidence. Bridgewater is the better athlete, and he operated from more of a pro-style scheme than Fales, who had a lot of predetermined reads in the Spartans’ offense. Fales won’t appeal to everyone, but he’s sure to tempt a coach somewhere in the sixth round or later.

Top prospect: Ohio State RB Carlos Hyde

Poor man’s version: Toledo RB David Fluellen

The reality is that Hyde likely won’t go until Round 2 (or 3), and he might not even be the first back drafted. But he’s our top-rated back, and yet you can see some similarities in size and running style between these two Ohioans. Hyde has more burst and certainly is the more explosive and better all-around player. But Fluellen — who benefited from Hyde skipping the Senior Bowl, where he played well — has some good power, grades well in the character department and can see holes before they open. Even on the negative side, they’re similar, as both players have battled injuries. Fluellen might come off the board in Round 5, or later. 

Top prospect: Clemson WR Sammy Watkins

Poor man’s prospect: UCLA WR Shaq Evans

There is no receiver with as balanced of a skill set or as much run-after-the-catch ability for his size as Watkins, but Evans is a good (albeit toned-down) comp. Both players are well-built, and despite Evans not possessing nearly the run-after-catch ability Watkins displays, they share some qualities. It’s the best we could come up with in this class without picking a second-round prospect such as Davante Adams or Cody Latimer.

Top prospect: Texas A&M WR Mike Evans

Poor man’s prospect: Rutgers WR Brandon Coleman

Evans is more well put together, is a little faster in and out of his breaks, and is the more explosive player. But Coleman has shown deep-ball and red-zone ability and has terrific length to outleap smaller defensive backs. Evans almost certainly will be the more well-rounded pro, but don’t be surprised if a team gets a real bargain with Coleman, who played very well before knee surgery slowed him down last season.

Top prospect: Oregon State WR Brandin Cooks

Poor man’s prospect: South Carolina WR Bruce Ellington

Ellington is a favorite of the Shutdown Corner with his deceptive speed, shiftiness in running routes and clutch play despite being underused at times. Cooks put up monster numbers in a system that featured him prominently, and we wonder what Ellington would have done in a similar offense — and had he focused solely on football and not also pulled double duty with the Gamecocks' hoops team.

Top prospect: North Carolina TE Eric Ebron

Poor man’s prospect: ex-Oregon TE Colt Lyerla

Few tight ends are in Ebron’s zip code athleticially, but the immature Lyerla is. He left the Oregon program, has raised a million character flags with NFL teams and clearly has some growing up to do. But we’re talking about a phenomenal athlete if he gets his head on straight. Maybe he has, and if so it will be some team’s gain late in the draft. Ebron is a top-20 pick, but Lyerla might have to wait until Saturday to hear his name called. Still, he’s an explosive athlete (his 39-inch vertical jump was four inches more than any other tight end, and he tied for the best broad jump) who might be worth taking a chance on.

Top prospect: Auburn OT Greg Robinson

Poor man’s prospect: Miami OT Seantrel Henderson

If there is a prospect in this draft who has no physical equal, it’s Robinson. He’s simply that insane and rare of an athlete whose foot speed, short-area quickness, power, mass, arm length and hand size come around maybe once or twice a decade. Crazy enough, if you’re strictly talking from an athletic standpoint, the one player in this class who might come closest is Henderson, whose stock is as volatile as ever as scouts wonder whether he truly loves football or not. A team picking in Rounds 6 or 7 might care to roll the dice to find out. 

Top prospect: South Carolina DE Jadeveon Clowney

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Virginia Tech DE James Gayle (Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports)

Poor man’s prospect: Virginia Tech DE James Gayle

Like Robinson, the Clowney mold is unique. Simply put: No one in this draft possesses his physical gifts or his run-and-chase football skills. But Gayle is a reasonably close physical match both in terms of size (Clowney is 6-5, 266; Gayle is 6-4, 259) and athleticism. Clowney’s explosiveness is on another planet, but the height-weight-speed comp applies, and some team in Round 3 or 4 might have a moldable athlete to work with in Gayle.

Top prospect: Pitt DT Aaron Donald

Poor man’s prospect: Utah DT Tenny Palepoi

Donald blew the roof off the RCA Dome with an eye-popping combine workout and no other defensive tackle in this class is the same kind of athlete he is. But keep an eye on Palepoi, who showed some good off-the-snap quickness and played well this season despite more blocking attention with Star Lotulelei gone. Palepoi, like Donald, has trouble with taking on double teams, and their compact bodies and penetration abilities make them slightly similar molds. 

Top prospect: Buffalo DE-OLB Khalil Mack

Poor man’s prospect: Arizona State DE-OLB Carl Bradford

Mack is the more explosive player, the more productive one and the more natural player in space in college. Really, Bradford is best going upfield, it appears, whereas Mack should be a more diverse type of linebacker. But both could be great edge players who can be disruptive and play with and edge. Bradford could be available in Rounds 3 or 4.

Top prospect: Oklahoma State CB Justin Gilbert

Poor man’s prospect: Northwest Missouri State CB Brandon Dixon

We’ve only had the chance to watch one game of Dixon (against Grand Valley State), but he’s a well-built, tough, physical and confident man corner. In the tape we watched, his team didn’t play a lick of zone coverage; that could be a problem for some NFL teams certainly. But if you can’t land Gilbert, Darqueze Dennard or Bradley Roby — the tough man-coverage prospects at the top of the draft — you might be intrigued by the raw Division-II prospect who tested very well at the combine and could be a great two-year project worth investing in. He might go off the board as early as Round 5, but someone will roll the dice on him.

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!

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