Joe Lombardi's Michael Thomas comparison
This is one of those, "they said it, not me!" moments. Offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi was the one who made the Michael Thomas comparison regarding the X-receiver role and the potential for Williams. Drew Brees even followed up on the comment and elaborated:
Williams has that frame where he can go up for the catch. In this league, he's one of the Top 5 50/50 ball receivers. That being said, comparing Thomas to Williams loses sight of what makes Thomas great.
Next Gen Stats ranked the top 2019 route runners by route on the basis of several metrics: target percentage, reception percentage, yards per route run, and separation. Thomas ranked as the best route runner analytically on the crossing, hitch, out, and slant routes. Simply put, he has a full bag of tricks in his arsenal.
Davante Adams and Keenan Allen are still the kings of separation and route running overall. But Thomas is clearly a top 5 technician. Per FiveThirtyEight, he's also deadly in the midrange EPA/play.
Again, I don't think Williams has to become a route running savant. But his other skills are so good to the point where if he raised his game in that department a little, he could at least be a Top 15 talent in the vein of say, Mike Evans. Evans doesn't have as extensive route-running tree but can create some separation when needed.
It's just not reasonable of the coaching staff to expect Thomas-level production without a skill level that is at least comparable.